TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation intended to help New Jersey address the long-term needs of residents with Alzheimer’s disease on Wednesday. The new law will establish a 15-member Alzheimer’s Disease Study Commission to study the current and future impact and incidence of the disease among state residents while examining the state’s role in long-term care, family caregiver support, and assistance to individuals with early stage and early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Both houses of the Legislature approved the bill unanimously.
The commission will also be tasked with studying the needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their family members and caregivers, assessing the availability and affordability of existing services, programs, facilities, and agencies to meet those needs, and making recommendations for improving, expanding, or changing services, programs, facilities, and agencies.
Under the law, the commission will be comprised of the commissioners of the departments of Health and Senior Services and Human Services, or their designees; two members of the Senate from opposing political parties, to be appointed by the Senate President; two members of the General Assembly from opposing political parties, to be appointed by the Speaker; and nine public members appointed by the Governor, as follows:
- Two members recommended by the Alzheimer’s Association, one representing the Greater New Jersey Chapter and one representing the Delaware Valley Chapter;
- Two health care professionals who are currently involved in direct services, one of whom shall be a representative of an agency that provides home care services to persons with dementia and one of whom shall be a representative of a licensed nursing home or assisted living facility that provides specialized services to persons with dementia;
- One representative from the clergy who has experience providing emotional and spiritual care and support for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and their families;
- Two individuals who bear or have borne responsibility in caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease;
- A health care professional who represents an assisted living facility; and
- One attorney who is currently licensed and practicing in New Jersey, has expertise in legal and financial planning and elder care issues, and has extensive community-based experience working with persons with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.
The commission will be required to report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and Legislature within two years of the appointment of a majority of the public members of the commission. The commission will expire upon submission of its final report.
Currently, 49 state legislatures have enacted at least one targeted law towards people with dementia. Many other states are prioritizing the study and tracking of the disease. Examples include: a commission on aging (includes the study of the disease) in Tennessee; an advisory council on Alzheimer’s disease in California; a state plan in Illinois; and a state plan task force in Missouri.
“Alzheimer’s disease is a harrowing illness that can take an extensive toll on families,” said Asw. Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “So many other states have taken the initiative to create a comprehensive plan to address the needs of those suffering from it. New Jersey should not be the only one sitting idly by.”
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