Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker speaks at microphone.

Illinois is the first state in the nation to require Alzheimer’s diagnosis training for healthcare professionals, officials said this week, thanks to a new law signed by Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday.

But senior living experts said the law will have little impact on providers since those in assisted living already undergo this type of training.

Senate Bill 677, sponsored by Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison), requires any healthcare professional who has continuing education requirements to complete at least a one-hour training course per license renewal period on the diagnosis, treatment and care of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said that passage “makes Illinois the first state in the nation to require Alzheimer’s diagnosis training for healthcare professionals.”

The requirement, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2023, applies to healthcare professionals who provide healthcare services to and have direct patient interactions with adults. Among the types of professionals mentioned in the legislation are nursing home administrators, social workers, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, speech language pathologists, physician assistants, podiatrists, audiologists, clinical psychologists, optometrists and counselors.

Matt Hartman, executive director of the Illinois Health Care Association, said the organization did not take an official position on ST 677 since those in the long-term care sector already have training requirements that would satisfy the new law.

“However, in general, we are supportive of efforts that seek to ensure resident-driven care, which we feel this legislation does,” he told McKnight’s Senior Living.

LeadingAge Illinois President and CEO Angela Schnepf similarly told McKnight’s Senior Living that it supports the governor’s efforts to improve the treatment of those with Alzheimer’s disease through enhanced education of the workforce.

“As senior living providers in Illinois, assisted living communities already undergo this training,” Schnepf said. “Expanding it to other healthcare professionals will be valuable in their understanding and compassionate response to those impacted by this disease.”

Training must include assessment and diagnosis, effective communication strategies, and management and care planning. Any training on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias applied to meet other state licensure requirements, professional accreditation or certification requirements, or healthcare institutional practice agreements may count toward the continuing education requirement. 

The requirement “better equips healthcare professionals, including those serving residents in historically underserved communities, with the tools they need to continue their medical education,” according to a news release.

“Two-hundred thirty thousand Illinois residents are living with Alzheimer’s disease,” Willis said in a statement. “Early detection is key to treatment. By working with all healthcare professionals on increasing their training for early screening, we hope to see better outcomes for families impacted by this disease.”

In a Facebook post, the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter wrote that the unanimous passage of the bill “will ensure doctors and healthcare professionals serving adults receive dementia training. This huge policy victory brings us one step closer to making Illinois a dementia-capable state.”

Another bill signed into law Monday also is designed to benefit people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

House Bill 848, sponsored by Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) and Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), extends the Illinois Lottery’s special instant scratch-off game to benefit Alzheimer’s care, support, education and awareness to Jan. 1, 2025. The game was scheduled to expire Jan. 1, 2022.