By Jennifer Braisted, Director of Government Affairs, Florida
On Monday, March 14, the white hankie dropped signaling the end of the 2022 Florida Legislative Session. The 60+ day session was a whirlwind. Fortunately, Alzheimer’s initiatives were prioritized during the Session.
It was an incredibly eventful Session, with many diverse pieces of legislation passing that affect education, nursing home standards and even our state dessert, now strawberry shortcake. The Florida Legislature passed a $112 billion budget and, thanks to your hard work and support, Alzheimer’s received a significant amount of funding. That is something to celebrate!
Here are a few of this year’s legislative wins.
Florida State Advocacy Days
On February 8 and 9, we hosted our annual Florida State Advocacy Days including a lighting ceremony that turned the Historic Capitol purple for Alzheimer’s awareness. We had several legislators stand in solidarity on the steps of the Historic Capitol. Guest speakers included Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez, Dept of Elder Affairs Secretary Michelle Branham, Representative Michelle Salzman, Representative Scott Plakon, and Alzheimer’s Advocate Michele Hall. The next day, 10 advocates met with more than 35 elected officials and their staffers, discussing legislative priorities and sharing their stories.
We worked on several priorities during the Session including the READY Act which stands for the Ramping Up Education for Alzheimer’s Act. This is a public health awareness campaign for health care providers that will utilize existing relevant public health campaigns to educate health care providers on early detection, diagnosis and brain health. This legislation was sponsored by Senator Keith Perry and Representative Michelle Salzman. The legislation passed unanimously in both Chambers and is now headed to the Governor for his signature.
READY Act sponsor Representative Michelle Salzman said, “Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease that has touched the lives of every Floridian. Being able to help families understand the early signs will surely provide a better outcome for both the families and the patients. The READY Act is an excellent step in that direction.”
Long-Term Care Support
Throughout the session, we worked on legislation regarding dementia training in long-term care housing. This legislation would close the gaps in dementia training within long-term care and provide greater care and support for our most vulnerable Floridians. Advocates took action on this bill and sent over 5,300 emails during the committee process! Thanks to you, the bill passed unanimously in all committees it went through. Advocates Priscilla Jean-Louis and Steve Waterhouse testified at committee meetings to shine a light on why this legislation is needed. Even though the bill did not pass, we made great strides and have a great platform to build upon next year.
State Funding for Alzheimer’s Research and Care
We prioritized many items in the state budget including funding for the Brain Bus and continued funding for Alzheimer’s research and respite.
On March 1, the Brain Bus came to Tallahassee to give legislators an opportunity to tour what tax payer dollars were supporting and see the resources this program is able to provide. We are excited to announce the Brain Bus was fully funded at 319,000 dollars for this upcoming budget year! This is another testament to advocates who utilized social media and email to personally explain why the Brain Bus is so vital for Florida.
We also saw historic increases in funding for the Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative (ADI) and the Community Care for the Elderly (CCE) program. Legislators approved an increase of $12 million for ADI and $9 million for CCE. This is a tremendous increase that will have a significant impact on Alzheimer’s caregivers needing these critical services. Cutting-edge Alzheimer’s research funding was also funded for $5 million through the Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s research program.
None of this would be possible without advocates making their voices heard in our state. We need you! Get involved today at AlzImpact.org/volunteer.