Three new laws in Wisconsin aim to provide respite care relief for caregivers and help those in the state be more responsive to dementia-related crises.

“The legislation we’re signing into law today helps us create dementia-friendly communities throughout the state by providing greater tools for caretakers, health professionals and law enforcement,” Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement after signing the bills into law March 22. “We’re happy to work with the Department of Health Services to ensure Wisconsinites with dementia receive the proper care and support needed as well as resources for their caretakers to ease their financial and emotional burden.”

Under Act 272, the DHS will propose a pilot program for coalitions of two or more counties to create dementia crisis units to assist county staff, including law enforcement and county health officials, in their ability to respond to people who have dementia and are experiencing a crisis. The law aims to reduce trauma for individuals with dementia and save taxpayers money by avoiding unnecessary trips to the emergency department visits and involuntary civil commitments to mental health facilities.

Act 273 will provide $1 million of additional funding for respite care relief for caregivers, including adult day care or short-term, in-house assistance, which may allow family caregivers to increase the length of time they are able to keep their loved ones in their current residences as opposed to a nursing home. The funds will be distributed to all 72 counties in the state under the Alzheimer’s Family and Caregiver Support Program. The act raises the income eligibility limit under the AFCSP from $40,000 to $48,000 and extends access to all 11 of Wisconsin’s federally recognized Indian tribes or bands.

Act 274 will provide $250,000 in general-purpose revenue to enable the DHS to award grants to counties or regions to provide training for mobile crisis teams to better respond to people experiencing dementia-related crises. Mobile crisis teams may include local health practitioners, counselors and social workers, and other local staff who partner with local law enforcement to respond to a crisis.