Florida is increasing its funding for Alzheimer’s and dementia funding by more than $12 million, bringing the state’s total commitment to more than $51 million for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the funding increase Monday — part of the state’s $10 billion budget — during a news conference at the Windsor at San Pablo, a Jacksonville assisted living community. The budget includes $5 million for Alzheimer’s research through the Florida Department of Health, as well as support services for patients and their families.

As the sixth-leading cause of death in Florida, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. About 580,000 people are now living with Alzheimer’s disease in Florida — that number is projected to increase to more than 720,000 by 2025.

Florida is the only state that has Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias listed as its own priority within a state health improvement plan. Florida Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom said the funding bump makes Florida a “dementia-caring state.”

Among the programs being funded is the state’s Dementia Care and Cure Initiative, which helps communities across Florida to be more dementia caring through 16 DCCI task forces throughout the state. 

In addition, the state’s Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee works to address Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias through the state’s infrastructure.

Florida also was the first state in the country to offer Project VITAL (Virtual Inclusive Technology for All) dementia-capable tablets throughout the state to older adults living with cognitive impairments in long-term care facilities and at home.

Each year, the Florida Department of Health awards grants and fellowships through the Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program. The program funds research related to Alzheimer’s disease by studying the diagnosis and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Last year, the Florida Department of Health awarded $4.5 million in funding for 22 projects.

“Some of the most difficult health conditions that impact many seniors are Alzheimer’s and dementia, and as more innovative early intervention therapies are developed to mitigate the effects and severity of these conditions, awareness of the initial signs and symptoms are increasingly important,” DeSantis said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the governor signed a proclamation for Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month in Florida.