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Wisconsin Cares

The Speaker's Task Force on Alzheimer's and Dementia released its findings and recommendations in a report on Tuesday.

JESSIE OPOIEN — The Capital Times

A legislative task force is recommending several measures to bolster Wisconsin's Alzheimer's and dementia care system.

The Speaker's Task Force on Alzheimer's and Dementia released its findings and recommendations in a report on Tuesday. Recommendations include addressing a shortage of elder care health care providers, funding research for cures and earlier diagnosis tools, examining the state's guardianship laws, improving responses to dementia crisis issues and educating youth about the disease. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, launched the task force in August 2015. After a series of public hearings and tours, 10 bills were introduced in the last legislative session related to the task force's findings.

Of those 10 bills, three became law: the creation of a pilot program for a dementia crisis unit, a $1 million funding increase for the state's Alzheimer's Family and Caregiver Support Program and the creation of a grant program to train mobile crisis teams on dementia-related issues. 

The task force has also increased awareness of the issue, said chairman Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah.

Rohrkaste said he hopes the conversations sparked by the task force will help reduce the stigma sometimes attached to dementia.

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The seven bills passed by the Assembly but not taken up by the Senate may be reintroduced in the upcoming session, Rohrkaste said. 

Included among those bills were proposals to increase research funding at the University of Wisconsin, create a dementia specialist certification and increase funding for the state Department of Health Services to hire additional dementia care specialists.

Rob Gundermann, public policy director for the Alzheimer's and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin, said the report offers a "blueprint for moving forward."

"The Legislature took us a good way down the field, obviously we still have farther to go," he said.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.