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Public safety panel hears bill to train police to deal with people with dementia

Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins) is one of many people with friends or relatives affected by Alzheimer’s disease. In her case, it was a grandmother with dementia who would face grave danger were she to wander away from her home near St. Paul’s Lake Phalen.

“If a vulnerable adult that has Alzheimer’s or any other type of dementia does wander off, minutes could make a difference,” she said.

Youakim sponsors HF28, which would fund law enforcement agencies to deliver training to prepare peace officers to work with citizens suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“This is a very personal project,” Youakim said.

As amended, the bill was laid over by the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee Thursday for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

The companion, SF130, sponsored by Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

The bill would appropriate $1 million in the 2022-23 biennium to the Department of Public Safety to administer regional and statewide voluntary training grants to state and local law enforcement and first responders to contract for training on “communication strategies, behavioral studies, and issues associated with persons with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Coursework would need to include training on wandering, driving, abuse, and neglect, Youakim said.

In fiscal year 2022, $200,000 of the $1 million appropriation would be for grants to law enforcement agencies to deliver training to increase membership, reduce the registration fee, and create additional categories for the state's crime alert network.

“Six in 10 people with dementia will wander,” said Josh Ney, manager of state affairs at the Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota-North Dakota.

They are very different from a person without cognitive impairment who has gone missing, he said.

“They don’t know they need help,” he said. “They can’t explain that they are lost.”

Law enforcement officers, therefore, need good training to identify dementia sufferers and effective techniques to safely help them, he said.

“HF28 will keep Minnesotans with dementia safe by ensuring first responders have the tools, training, and resources needed to help this growing population, especially when they’re in crisis,” he said.

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