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Lawmakers give initial nod to fund state plan to address Alzheimer's disease

The Utah State Capitol is shown Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in Salt Lake City. Lawmakers supported a bill Thursday that would facilitate implementation of Utah's State Plan for Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias, which has been dormant since the 2012 Le
The Utah State Capitol is shown Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in Salt Lake City. Lawmakers supported a bill Thursday that would facilitate implementation of Utah's State Plan for Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias, which has been dormant since the 2012 Legislature adopted it.
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers supported a bill Thursday that would help implement Utah's State Plan for Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias, which has been dormant since the 2012 Legislature adopted it.

"There are many families in our state who, day in and day out, are grappling with the decisions of taking care of their family members with Alzheimer's disease," said Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City. "They are working hard to keep them from becoming wards of the state."

The bill would designate Alzheimer's as a public health concern and direct the Utah Department of Health to incorporate an action plan to inform the public and medical communities about the disease and its prevalence into the state budget.

HB175 would get the ball rolling to tackle a growing problem.

"Utah is No. 1, and we're not talking about football. We are the leading state in the nation with the highest prevalence of Alzheimer's per capita of the population," said Ronnie Daniel, director of the Utah chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

Alzheimer's has not previously been included as a duty of the state health department, but because the disease has reached epidemic proportions, Daniel said he believes it should become a priority.

The state plan has goals to increase awareness, improve access to proper treatment and resources, support for caregivers, improve medical competency in dealing with the disease, and expand research about the disease in Utah.

Members of the House Health and Human Services Standing Committee approved the bill, passing it out of the committee to the House floor with a favorable recommendation. Committee members Norm Thurston, R-Provo, and Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, voted against the bill.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com

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