October 20th, 2017

Alzheimer's Awareness Legislation

This week, I circulated legislation which continues the fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia in Wisconsin. Last session, I chaired the Speaker’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s and Dementia, which traveled across the state listening to the concerns of Wisconsinites regarding these diseases. This bill is a continuation of the work that was done by the task force and it is part of a seven-bill package that was introduced.

Alzheimer’s and dementia affects hundreds of thousands of our fellow Wisconsinites every day, and that number only continues to grow. From those living with these diseases, to the countless caregivers who assist them on a daily basis, we need to let these people know that there are resources available to them.

LRB 4206 creates a $500,000 grant program at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services where local community programs from rural and underserved urban areas can apply for grants to help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s and dementia throughout Wisconsin. During the Speaker’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s and Dementia’s public hearings, legislators heard countless times about the lack of knowledge surrounding the diseases themselves and the lack of knowledge concerning the resources available.

Raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia is incredibly important both for those living with these diseases and their caregivers. If more Wisconsinites knew about Alzheimer’s and dementia, we would be able to diagnose earlier and would also be able to provide family, friends, and co-workers with knowledge about these diseases.

LRB 4206 was released today and will be available for co-sponsorship by other legislators until next Friday, October 27th.

Bill Desciptions

LRB 4206 Alzheimer's and Dementia Awareness Grant (Rohrkaste): A common theme surrounding Alzheimer’s and dementia is a lack of awareness. Many Wisconsinites don’t know that they or their loved one is living with one of these diseases, and if they do know, many don’t know where to turn. There are many governmental and private resources throughout the state for those living with these diseases and their caregivers. These organizations offer different forms of assistance, but many of our fellow Wisconsinites are not aware of all options. LRB 4206 directly addresses this problem by allowing DHS to distribute up to $500,000 in grants to community programs across the state to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s and dementia resources. By raising awareness, we are hoping to catch these diseases sooner in those living with them and also to raise awareness for caregivers, co-workers, friends, and family about the resources available to them when caring for a loved one.

LRB 3748 Palliative Care Advisory Council (Snyder): This bill would establish a Palliative Care Advisory Council consisting of doctors, healthcare professionals, advocates, hospital administrators, and medical students. Wisconsin would join 21 other states in establishing a similar council that is directed to consult with and advise the Department of Health Services. The Palliative Care Advisory Council would meet to positively impact the policies of DHS and the Legislature regarding palliative care. The goal of the council would be to understand and evaluate the impact palliative care has on families, experiences of families that have used palliative care services, practices and protocols of doctors within the palliative care field, and areas in which palliative care can be improved. The board would be required to develop biennial legislative reports and sunset after 10 years.

LRB 1243 The Silver Alert Fix (Skowronski): This simple fix ensures that if a credible Silver Alert has been issued for the driver, law enforcement must notify the Department of Transportation. DOT must do a follow-up review to consider restrictions for that driver. Individuals for which the silver alert has been issued and their guardians are also referred to local aging and disability resource centers.

LRB 3913: Dementia Specialist Certifications (Skowronski): This bill would create a 40-hour voluntary certification for CNAs, nurses and assisted living center administrators with the goal of improving caregiving for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia, creating new opportunities for professional development and helping facilities attract and retain new workers. This bill would ensure that everyone using the term “Certified Dementia Specialists” would have a standard knowledge base. Those looking to place their loved ones in care facilitates would know that a “Certified Dementia Specialist” completed a state-sponsored training program. A certified dementia specialist would be trained in the challenging behaviors and situations that often arise with a patient with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

LRB 4231 The Caregiver Tax Credit (Skowronski): Across the country, there are 40 million people are caregivers for family members with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Of those 40 million, caregiving is their primary responsibility as many have left the workforce, or reduced the amount of time they are working to care for a loved one with a significant illness. Family caregivers are unpaid, but the economic value of their care is in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Caregiving for a loved one is not just an incredible responsibility and emotionally stressful but financially burdensome. Family caregivers who leave the workforce could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages and benefits over their lifetimes. To help alleviate the costs associated with caregiving, this bill offers a $1,000 tax credit to qualifying families for expenses related to caregiving.

LRB 3615 Uniform Adult Guardianship Certifications (Skowronski): The impact of dementia on a person’s ability to make decisions and without other advanced directives, people with Alzheimer’s disease may need the assistance of a court-appointed guardian. Once appointed that guardian may make legal, economic, and personal well-being decisions for the individual.
However, in our increasingly mobile society, not all court-appointed guardians live in the same state as the person to which they are assigned. Differences in states’ adult guardianship laws and limited communication between states and courts create a barrier to addressing end of life issues. Adult guardianship jurisdiction issues commonly arise in situations involving snowbirds, transfer of guardianship and long-distance caregiving. Uniform Adult Guardianship in Wisconsin would simplify the process for resolving a jurisdictional adult guardianship issue – allowing cases to be settled more quickly, and provide more predictable outcomes. This bill allows Wisconsin courts to communicate with other courts when a jurisdictional issue arises.

LRB 3916 Virtual Dementia Tours (Tittl): This bill increases funding to the Department of Health Services by $50,000 on a one-time basis to purchase virtual dementia tour licenses so virtual tours can be made available at various locations throughout the state.
A virtual dementia tour involves wearing a headset, watching a computer screen and performing various tasks as requested during the tour. At the end of the tour, a person gains a better understanding of what it is like to have dementia and struggle with routine matters. Following that experience, people often remark that the tour was an eye-opening and helpful experience.

Drug Take Back Day

Drug Take Back Day is October 28th this year. There are several locations in our area where you can dispose of unwanted or expired prescription drugs, including the police departments in the City of Neenah, City of Menasha, City of Appleton, and the Village of Fox Crossing. We all must safely dispose of these items; they should never be flushed or put down the drain as they pose a contamination risk to our water supply.

For a complete list of drop off locations, visit the Wisconsin Department of Justice Website.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Legislation

This week, along with Senator Devin LeMahieu, I introduced legislation which updates state statutes to better reflect the practice of Advanced Practice Nursing here in Wisconsin. We have worked with multiple stakeholder groups to craft this legislation and have already received wide bipartisan support.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are registered nurses with advanced knowledge and skill. They include Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, and Certified Nurse Midwives. In Wisconsin, these specialized nurses are currently defined as either Advanced Practice Nurses, or Advanced Practice Nurse Prescribers, depending on their education and certifications. The new umbrella title, APRN, will provide clarity to their role and responsibility.

In order to be titled as an APRN, a person must have graduated from a nursing program with a master’s degree or higher in one of the four roles above. They must also obtain at least 16 hours of continuing education per biennium. 2 hours per biennium must be in prescribing controlled substances. It is important to note that this bill will not make it easier for a nurse to obtain prescribing authority. They must earn the same certificate as they would need under current law.

In Wisconsin, we have a serious provider shortage. In the APRN categories, vacancy rates vary between 4 and 11 percent, according to a 2016 study by the Wisconsin Hospital Association. This shortage is felt throughout the state, but it is particularly difficult to cope with in rural areas, where healthcare providers are even scarcer.

The APRN Modernization Act will bring Wisconsin in line with the National Consensus Model of Advanced Nurse Licensure. This will provide clarity to the scope of practice of these important healthcare providers in comparison to other professionals in the state and their peers across state lines. APRNs are recognized in states all across the country, including Minnesota and Illinois.

Recognizing APRN’s will help ease the provider shortage we feel all across our state and make Wisconsin a more attractive place for these professionals to practice.

Secretary Klett Visits the 55th!

Picture left to right: Andrew Nussbaum, myself, Secretary Klett, Jane Lang, Pam Siedl, Chris Haese

On Monday, Department of Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett visited the 55th Assembly District. Secretary Klett spoke before a group at the Neenah Club, and then took part in horse-drawn carriage ride set up by the Neenah Historical Society. It was fun to show the secretary around the district and introduce her to some of the history of the Fox Cities.

Tourism is incredibly important to Wisconsin's economy, bringing billions of dollars into the state every year. As a state, we must continue to promote ourselves to the rest of the country. Wisconsin is not only a great place to live and work, but it is a great place to visit and have fun!

I would like to thank the Department of Tourism, as well as the Neenah Historical Society, the City of Neenah, and the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau for helping to set up tours. It was the perfect day to showcase the Fox Cities to Secretary Klett, and we are all hoping she will be able to visit again in the future.

Have a great weekend,


Legislative Website

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State Capitol Room 321 East - PO Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-5719
Email: Rep.Rohrkaste@legis.wisconsin.gov