Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation authored by California Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) that will improve diagnosis, treatment and care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The bill, Senate Bill (SB) 613, requires the California Department of Public Health to update guidelines used by physicians to reflect changes in the health care system, and the latest scientific research on these illnesses. The current guidelines have not been updated since 2008.

“I am so pleased that this new law will help patients and their families get the care and support they need,” Allen said.

California has pioneered Alzheimer’s disease management in the primary care setting, first with guidelines issued in 1999 and a subsequent update in 2008. These evidence-based, peer-reviewed physician practice guidelines focus on four critical areas of patient care: 1) assessment, 2) treatment, 3) patient and family education and support, and 4) legal considerations.

SB 613 will require the Department of Public Health to convene a statewide workgroup to update state physician guidelines for managing Alzheimer’s and dementia, bringing together experts in patient care, research, detection and diagnosis, treatment and home and community-based supports. Managing Alzheimer’s – a progressive, degenerative disease with no cure – requires specialized knowledge not readily available to many physicians serving a diverse patient mix. Guidelines equip physicians with information and resources to better serve their patients. They are comprehensive tools used to promote best practices.

“Governor Brown’s signature of SB 613 into law sends a message that more can and will be done to manage Alzheimer’s disease. His action also ensures the leadership and expertise of state public health officials will continue as they update the guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease management to benefit hundreds of thousands of Californians at risk of, or living with, Alzheimer’s disease and their families,” said Susan De Marois, state director of the Alzheimer’s Association.

California is home to an estimated 580,000 people with Alzheimer’s and dementia – more than any other state. It is projected the number will rise to 690,000 by 2020 and 840,000 by 2025. Nearly two-thirds of California seniors living with Alzheimer’s are women. Not only are women more likely to have Alzheimer’s, they also comprise 60 to 70 percent of all caregivers of persons with the disease.

These diseases also disproportionately impact seniors of diverse backgrounds. The number of Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders living with Alzheimer’s disease will triple in the next generation. The number of African Americans affected by the disease will double by 2030.

SB 613 requires the Department of Public Health to complete the updated guidelines by March of 2017.

– Submitted by Colleen Beamish, Chief of Staff for California Senator Ben Allen

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