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Rep. West's bipartisan bill to equip police officers and first responders with dementia training passes out of committee

March 17, 2021
Thomas West News

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

“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. I am grateful to my colleagues for their swift consideration, and I look forward to a vote on the House floor soon.”

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 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 committee vote, HB 23 awaits a vote on the House floor.