Opinion: An opportunity to help Marylanders with dementia

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By David McShea and JR Paterakis

The authors are respectively Executive Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Greater Maryland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Michael Razzi shared his story at this year’s General Assembly session of how he started experiencing memory problems at age 58. A battery of cognitive tests didn’t provide a definitive answer, and by his own admission, the St. Mary’s County resident “was in a pretty dark place.

He was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage, finding help and hope through counseling and a community support group. Michael now tells his story publicly, knowing that over time he will lose the ability to react to his surroundings, carry on a conversation, and eventually control his movements.

We previously wrote an op-ed last year for Maryland Matters, “Building Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Disease,” about the first steps in meeting the needs of our state’s residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Today, we are grateful to Governor Larry Hogan for signing into law legislation to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and improve the quality of long-term care in Maryland.

This includes 2021 Chapters 479 and 480, sponsored by Senator Pamela Beidle and Del. Lisa Belcastro, which require the Maryland Department of Health to enact revised regulations for assisted living facilities (including, in particular, Alzheimer’s Special Care Units) by December 1, 2022.

Our progress to advance a political agenda that helps the more than 110,000 Marylanders with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias continues. We appreciate the Virginia I. Jones Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Council (the ADRD Council) of Maryland for recommending a dementia-specific staff member in its new state plan for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. at the Maryland Department of Health. We thank Speaker of the House Pro Tem Sheree Sample-Hughes and Senator Malcolm Augustine for their legislation (HB166/SB27) that requires the creation of this position at MDH, to work in all agencies, on an issue that Maryland has more than $1.2 billion in Medicaid costs alone.

We urge Governor Hogan to sign this bill.

We are charting an important and coordinated path for Maryland.

We thank LifeSpan, representing Maryland Assisted Living, for their support of HB636/SB531. This bill, based on the work of Maryland’s Nursing Home and Assisted Living Care Quality Oversight Committee, requires further study to improve the quality of care in small residential service providers. Maryland service. This bill, also from Del. Belcastro and Senator Beidle, was passed by both Houses of the Legislature, and we again ask for the Governor’s support.

We also thank Congresswoman Karen Lewis Young and Senator Nancy King for their sponsorship of legislation that would mandate the creation of a dementia care navigation program in each of Maryland’s regional agencies on aging. This initiative, inspired by a similar program in Wisconsin, attracted 20 different co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle in its first year of review.

We are moving forward today with an amazing opportunity to help the people of Maryland.

In addition to the legislative program, we are thrilled that our state’s fiscal year 2023 budget includes $3.5 million to “provide funding for improved Alzheimer’s disease services and research,” which will impact communities in Maryland. We thank the Governor and legislative champions who made this possible, including Senate Speaker Bill Ferguson, Senate Budget and Taxation Chairman Guy Guzzone, Budget and Taxation Subcommittee Chair on Health and Social Services Melony Griffith and Sen. Ron Young; with House Speaker Adrienne Jones, House Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh and Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Kirill Reznik.

We couldn’t be more excited to partner with the Maryland Department of Health and the ADRD Council and chart a responsible path for these resources.

Maryland has long had the infrastructure to fight many different diseases. Thanks to extraordinary investments in caring for people living with HIV, Maryland now has just over 31,000 affected residents.

In late 2020, Governor Hogan announced $94 million in diabetes funding. The Maryland Department of Health’s Behavioral Health Administration does vital work for Marylanders with substance abuse and mental health issues. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, a cognitive health issue, has had neither the funding nor the staff to do the job possible.

This equation evolves; we have the opportunity to bring awareness and help to Marylanders like Michael Razzi, and so many others, who are trying to understand and manage this cruel disease.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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