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Rep. West testifies on bipartisan bill to train police and first responders to interact with dementia patients

February 10, 2021
Thomas West News

COLUMBUS- State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) today announced that House Bill (HB) 23, his bipartisan bill with Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) to require that police officers and first responders be trained to identify and interact with individuals with dementia, received its first hearing in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

“Particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when many Ohioans with dementia may be apart from family and caregivers, we must ensure that our police officers and first responders are equipped to effectively communicate with and assist these individuals,” said Rep. West. “HB 23 would provide the necessary training to handle these situations and ensure the safety of our loved ones with this disease.”

HB 23 calls for two hours of instruction for police officer and first responder trainees and one hour of instruction for continuing professional training. Under the bill, the state Attorney General’s office would consult with the Ohio Department of Aging to develop a training program that covers effective communication techniques, ways to identify symptoms of the disease, protocols for contacting caregivers, and local resources available for individuals with dementia.

A May 2019 cleveland.com analysis of Census Bureau data projects that Ohioans 60 and older will outnumber those 20 and younger in this year’s census. According to the Alzheimer’s Association of Ohio, about 220,000 Ohioans live with Alzheimer’s or other dementias – a number that’s expected to grow 20 percent by 2030 as our population continues to age. The national Alzheimer’s Association also reports that 50 percent of individuals with dementia live at home without family or a caregiver, and 60 percent are prone to wandering.

HB 23 is one of multiple bills that West has re-introduced for this General Assembly. Its precursor, HB 441, passed the House by an 83-10 vote last year before stalling in the Senate. 

Following today’s hearing, HB 23 awaits further hearings from the House Commerce and Labor Committee.