Today, our police and emergency first responders in Ohio face many unique challenges in serving local communities -- including responding to the growing number of incidents involving those who have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.
Recognizing and properly responding to the needs of individuals who have dementia requires a special knowledge base, especially during times of emergency. Since the onset of COVID-19, many departments in Ohio are reporting a higher number of interactions with the aging population.
According to Troy Fire Chief Matthew Simmons, more than 80 percent of his department’s calls now involve residents 70 and older who are “depressed on the low end or stressed on the high end.”
Last year, the department experienced two separate 911 calls where patients with dementia were combative, agitated and swung at the EMS/paramedic.
“When we are dealing with patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it does elevate the nature of the call,” Simmons said.
After assessing those incidents and how the calls were handled, he recognized that his staff needed more training on how to communicate and de-escalate those situations in a more effective and appropriate manner.
I believe Ohio House Bill 23, originally introduced by State Reps. Thomas West (D-Canton) and Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) will address that need in providing first responders, including police and EMS personnel, with important dementia training.
Overwhelmingly passed by the Ohio House last year, HB23 is currently being reviewed by the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee. Chief Simmons is among many emergency officials in Ohio who have voiced support of HB23.
The Alzheimer’s Association has done some dementia training. In the past, we have trained the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department, and there are plans to provide similar training to Cleveland Heights’ first responders.
The beauty of the legislation is that it would allow all departments to get the necessary training.
As a member of the Ohio Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia Task Force, I know well the impact Alzheimer’s has on our state and many of its families.
Alzheimer’s is not just an aging issue, it is also a public health issue, and Ohio has taken the first step in moving the state forward with regard to combating the disease and providing greater support to those living with dementia.
The work being done by the task force will set the foundation for Ohio’s future in dealing with what many refer to as the disease of the 21st century. The passage of HB23 would clearly be a step forward in helping form that foundation.
HB23 could not come at a better time than now, when so many seniors are dealing with added stresses of isolation and health challenges.
This legislation is a win-win for our first responders, as well as the estimated 220,000 individuals currently living with Alzheimer’s disease in Ohio, as well as their families and caregivers.
For the sake of the thousands in Ohio affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, as well as their caregivers and families, I urge the Ohio Senate to pass HB23 and further help improve the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s -- both today and in the future.