older woman in a garden

One bill under consideration in the Indiana Legislature would require the state to develop a dementia strategic plan, and another outlines training for first responders who encounter people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

House Bill 1177, introduced by state Rep. Gregory Porter (D-Indianapolis), would require the state Division of Aging to develop a strategic plan assessing adequate care for people who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The strategic plan would cover diagnosis trends, services, costs, resources, care evaluation and education.

The plan also would focus on increasing dementia awareness and enhancing the state’s dementia-based workforce, including analyzing specific training requirements and enhancing the capacity of adult protective services workers and law enforcement to properly respond to individuals with dementia.

Indiana is one of only a few states without a state dementia plan. Natalie Sutton, executive director of the Greater Indiana chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, testified before the Indiana General Assembly’s Public Health Committee on Feb. 15 in support of the bill. She said that 49 states and territories have published plans since 2007. Indiana published a plan in 2013, but it was not fully implemented and is now outdated, Sutton said.

Sutton said that 110,000 Hoosiers are living with Alzehimer’s disease. That number is expected to grow due to longer lifespans, which would place an “enormous burden” on state budgets, long-term care infrastructure and the health system, she said. Dementia costs the state more than $1 billion annually in Medicaid expenses.

Sutton said the dementia strategic plan explores the effect of dementia and steps to take to improve services and supports, creates an infrastructure and accountability necessary to build dementia-capable programs, increases public awareness and encourages early detection and diagnosis, supports training for frontline caregivers and first responders, and develops community-based and residential dementia care services in a cost-effective way.

In her testimony, Sutton said that the Indiana Health Care Association / Indiana Center for Assisted Living, the state affiliates of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, support the bill.

Grant dollars from the federal Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act are available to assist with strategic planning and implementation. 

Another bill, House Bill 1542 introduced by Rep. Ethan Manning (R-Indianapolis), outlines training specifications for police officers and medical responders who respond to calls related to people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The training would include identification of symptoms, communication and protocols for contacting caregivers.