Thursday, February 12, was Alzheimer’s Awareness Day at the Georgia State Capitol. Of the 200 Georgia advocates attending the event, over 75% indicated that they had never attended before.
Following an update on the Chapter’s Platform issues, we joined Governor Nathan Deal and several supportive legislators for our annual photo opportunity. Everywhere you turned in the Capitol and the Coverdell Legislative Office Building was a sea of purple.
Some of our advocates went in constituent groups to meet with their state senator or state representative in their offices, at previously scheduled appointments
The advocates were treated to a lunch program including the following speakers, talking about our Georgia Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias State Plan or about our current Platform issues including Chairman Wendell Willard, sponsor of HB 72—Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Bill; Kathy Floyd, Executive Director of the Georgia Council on Aging, reviewing HB86—the Repositioning of the Aging Agency Bill, sponsored by Chairman Tommy Benton; and Maureen Kelly, addressing the “End the Wait Ask,” reviewing the $10 million appropriations request for funding for Home and Community-Based Services. Advocates who did not have appointments began going as constituent groups to call their senators or representatives out of Session. By the end of the day, all 56 Senators or their staff members, and all 180 Representatives or their staff members had been visited by one of our advocates or staff—all received packets providing our Platform, fact sheets on each of our issues, and general fact sheets about Alzheimer’s disease. 97 advocates spoke directly with 55 senators or representatives—presenting the face of the Association and the face of Alzheimer’s to that legislator. From the various meetings with legislators and staff, over half of the current seated legislators have a personal connection to Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.
Dr. James Bulot, Director of the Division of Aging Services, and Chairman of the Georgia Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias State Plan, updated the advocates on the implementation of the State Plan. Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, spoke on her agency’s role in the State Plan implementation and on Alzheimer’s as a public health crisis in Georgia.
A highlight of the lunch program was delivered by Shelly Hill, an advocate, family caregiver, and wife of Senator Judson Hill—sharing her personal story of financial exploitation of her father, and the need for HB 72 to be passed.
Prior to coming to the Capitol, many advocates attended training at one of 14 training opportunities provided across the state in the Chapter’s seven regions. Additional advocates reviewed the Power Point training module on the Chapter’s advocacy page, to prepare themselves for the day.
Now, that the update and report on the day is completed—I want to thank each advocate, each lunch program participant, each staff member, and each of the many partner organizations who joined us in making our Eighth Annual Alzheimer’s Awareness Day at the Georgia State Capitol a success! …and as an example of your hard work that day:
- HB86 unanimously passed the House today…now, it crosses over to the Senate and goes through the process there…keep up the GREAT work!
So, when we are asked why we advocate, we simply refer to those we represent who live daily with the disease—persons with dementia, family caregivers sharing their journey, professional caregivers who choose to care, physicians, nurses, hospice, and long-term industry individuals—and say “How can we not advocate?”—how can we not make the time to develop plans; e-mail, call, and visit legislators; attend Awareness Day at the Capitol, and use our VOICES as loudly and as long as needed to raise the awareness and concern that any one of us could be next.
I am committed to stay in this fight until we overcome this disease—I am committed to do all in my power as an individual and as a staff person of the Association to be a catalyst to bring about the end of Alzheimer’s in my lifetime. How about you?