Randy Yohe Published

Bill For Law Enforcement Training About Alzheimer’s Advances


On Alzheimer’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol Wednesday, many celebrated a bill with full bipartisan support that highlights first responder training.

In the house chamber, a citation was read recognizing the work of the West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association. Its public policy director, David Zielonka recognizes the need for HB 4521.

The bill requires all state law enforcement and correction officers undergo training to deal with those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Zielonka said more than half of the 40,000 West Virginians suffering the brain disorder affecting memory and behavior will wander off at some point.

“They can be showing erratic signs, they can be lost, we want to make sure the officers understand how to identify someone with Alzheimer’s, how to communicate with them and return them to their caregiver,” Zielonka said.

The specialized instruction also includes understanding the risks associated with Alzheimer’s, including elder abuse and exploitation.

Del. Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire sponsors the house bill. She said she appreciates the term ‘respectfully treated’ included in the legislation.

“A lot of these people suffering from Alzheimer’s were productive citizens, very active in their communities, and all of a sudden their families are faced with the fact that they are not making the decisions they were making a few years ago,” Rowan said, “So it’s very important that the office understand and realize the backgrounds they are coming from.”

Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone is a physician specializing in geriatrics. Stollings sponsors similar Alzheimer’s legislation, SB 570.

“We don’t want any of our seniors being wrestled out of their car, or put to the ground because they don’t know how to obey what a police officer asks them to do,” Stollings said.

SB 570 passed unanimously, providing education and understanding for treating a unique and challenging disease.