February 29, 2016

Legislative Session Recap

Click the image above to view a video from Rep. Rohrkaste

Wisconsin Cares Package Passes Assembly!

Last week, I joined my colleagues in the Wisconsin State Assembly to pass the Wisconsin Cares Legislative Package. These 10 bills are the culmination of months of work by the Speaker’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s and Dementia and now move forward in the legislative process.

I would like to thank all members of the state Assembly for voting in favor of these bills.  The Wisconsin Cares Legislative Package will not only help those living with dementia, but will also help those providing care.

The Wisconsin Cares Legislative Package addresses a number of concerns that those living with dementia and their caregivers face. Increased respite care, additional Dementia Care Specialists, dementia training for mobile crisis teams, and an increase in funding for the University of Wisconsin – Madison Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center are just a few of the items this package addresses.

Anyone can be affected by Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia and it is imperative that we as a state recognize the challenge these diseases pose.  I have personally dealt with dementia in my own family and I want to make sure that my fellow Wisconsinites have the resources to fight this disease.

The entire Wisconsin Cares Legislative Package, having unanimously pass the Assembly, now moves to the state Senate for public hearing.

In case you missed it, please click here to read about my work with the Alzheimer's and Dementia Task Force and the Wisconsin Cares Package.

Wisconsin Cares Legislative Package

AB 783, relating to: funding for virtual dementia tour licenses.
-  This legislation directs the Department of Health Services to purchase Virtual Dementia Tour Licenses to be utilized at Aging and Disability Resources Centers throughout Wisconsin.
-  The Virtual Dementia Tour is used to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and dementia and to help people understand these diseases.
-  Virtual Dementia Tours are often employed by Dementia Care Specialists in their local communities.

AB 784, relating to: funding for the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Wisconsin−Madison.
-  The funding would be for two new studies which include plans to analyze blood samples from adult, middle-aged children of patients with Alzheimer’s. These adult children are at an increased risk of developing the disease and analysis of their blood samples may allow them to identify new abnormal proteins that could cause Alzheimer’s. Discovery of such novel proteins could attract large grants from NIH (National Institutes of Health) and other federal agencies, and lead to new potential treatments and prevention approaches for Alzheimer’s.

AB 785, relating to: dementia specialist certification program.
-  This bill creates a dementia specialist certification.
-  If a person provides evidence of successful completion of an approved instructional program and pays a certification fee, the Department of Health Services must certify that person as a dementia specialist. The certification is valid for two years and can be renewed if the individual provides proof to DHS of four hours of continuing education.
-  This bill creates the ability for professional development in the caregiving field and the opportunity to gain new    skills while also increasing the quality of care for those living with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.

AB 786, relating to: report on dementia crisis unit pilot program.
-  As amended, AB 786 requires DHS to propose a pilot program for two or more counties to create dementia crisis units.  These dementia crisis units would be an option for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia who are in a crisis situation.

AB 787, relating to: funding for respite care under the Alzheimer’s Family and Caregiver Support Program.
-  This bill provides a $1 million increase for respite care under the Alzheimer’s Family and Caregiver Support Program (AFCSP).
-  Caregiving for a family member with Alzheimer’s and dementia can lead to increased health risks like stroke and heart attack. Respite care gives caregivers a needed break from daily care giving duties.
-  AFCSP provides a much needed resource to caregivers and respite care can provide them with time to relax and relieve stress.

AB 788, relating to: funding for dementia care specialists in aging and disability resource centers.
-  This bill increases funding to DHS to authorize the hiring of four additional Dementia Care Specialists (DCSs) by ADRCs in counties with a population under 150,000. (This excludes: Brown, Dane, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Racine, Rock, Waukesha, and Winnebago).
-  This bill also increases funding to DHS to fill one additional FTE position for the training of Dementia Care Specialists in ADRCs to educate employers about issues relating to dementia with their employees and family members of employees.

AB 789, relating to: continuing legal and judicial education on elder law−related issues.
-  Requests the Wisconsin Supreme Court to develop rules requiring attorneys who practice elder law or trusts and estates law to complete certain continuing legal education requirements. Requires the court to do the same for justices relating to elder law and trusts and estates law.
-  This legislation looks to strengthen the system we already have in place to protect those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia from fraud and financial abuse.

AB 790, relating to: dementia training grants for mobile crisis teams.
-  This bill requires the Department of Health Services to award grants to counties or regions of counties for their mobile crisis teams to obtain training on recognizing and serving individuals with dementia.
-  Under current law, the state provides grants to mobile crisis teams to help provide assistance in cases of individuals suffering from acute mental illness. These teams respond in situations where an individual’s mental or emotional condition leads to behavior which makes them a danger to themselves or others.
-  It is increasingly necessary for these teams to be trained to respond to individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia. As Wisconsin’s population ages, mobile crisis teams are more often being called to an emergency involving a person with dementia.
-  DHS shall award grants in the total amount of $250,000 to counties or regions that are approved.

AB 791, relating to: informed consent for psychotropic medications in nursing homes and community−based residential facilities.
-  This bill requires a community-based residential facility (CBRF) to provide to a informational form for administration of psychotropic medications to a resident or their guardian.  This form can be emailed or mailed to the resident's guardian or health care power of attorney.
-  Psychotropic medications have Black Box Warnings for individuals with a degenerative brain disorder, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia because, they increase mortality. Black Box Warnings are assigned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are intended as warnings for the administration of certain drugs.
-  Current law already requires that nursing homes obtain written informed consent before administering a psychotropic medication that contains a boxed warning to any patient with a degenerative brain disorder.
-  Many CBRFs already do this in Wisconsin, this legislation ensures that family members are notified if their family member with Alzheimer’s or dementia is being prescribed a drug that increases mortality.

AB 792, relating to: referrals for subjects of alerts for missing adults and operator’s license review.
-  This bill requires a law enforcement agency that has issued a Silver Alert to refer the person making the report to a local Aging and Disability Resource Center.
-  The bill also requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to review the driver’s license of the person who is the subject of a Silver Alert to determine if restrictions should be placed on their license for the safety of them and others.
-  This bill looks to preserve the integrity of the Silver Alert program while also ensuring that those who have had a Silver Alert issued for them and are operating a motor vehicle are fit to do so.

Assembly 751 & Amendment

Recently, there was considerable discussion surrounding Assembly Bill 751. The original bill involves a special needs scholarship program.  Several amendments were put forth to correct a funding formula for public schools concerning the school choice program. These amendments, which were put forward during the committee process, led to many concerns from constituents. After discussing the concerns with a number of people, including Superintendent Pfeiffer of the Neenah Joint School District, a new amendment was drafted and that is what passed the Assembly on February 18th.

Under the new amendment, public school districts will receive authority to levy an amount equal to the amount they transfer to choice schools (voucher payment) to cover the cost of educating the child. They cannot levy any amount above that cost. This balances the issue of funding for public schools and property tax rate changes. With this change the Neenah Joint School District will now not see a reduction in their budget. This change was important to ensure school districts have the ability to appropriately levy under these circumstances.

Attention: Community Update

Several community members have contacted my office with concerns about the Fox Valley Memory Project and the Memory Loss Resource Center which currently operate in the Thompson Community Center in Appleton.  There has been some confusion as to what will happen to these two community resources when the Thompson Community Center closes at the end of March. 

The Fox Valley Memory Project will continue to operate all of their Alzheimer's and dementia programs.  They have identified several locations as potential sites and will be coming to a decision soon.  Currently, they would like to let community members know that they are not discontinuing operations and will be finding a new location soon.

Capitol Visits

In the last couple of weeks I have been able to meet with numerous constituents from the 55th as they have traveled to the Capitol.  Several students from Neenah High School and Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) were able to come down and visit with me.  Neenah HS and FVTC continue to do great work in providing a solid education and future outlook for our students here in the Fox Cities.

If you are ever visiting the Capitol and would like to meet with me please contact my office to schedule an appointment or feel free to stop by.  I am also more than happy to meet with constituents in district for meetings.

Legislative Website

If you are interested in learning more about bills I have authored, co-sponsored, or voted on please click here.  This link will take you directly to my Wisconsin State Legislature page.  Also, if you are interested in viewing my office website click here.


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State Capitol Room 208 North - PO Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-5719
Email: Rep.Rohrkaste@legis.wisconsin.gov