I4A Identifies Dementia Services Specialist Program as Top Policy Initiative

There are over 66,000 Iowans over the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Iowa Health and Human Services (IHHS) Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Program (ADRD) website. The ADRD program had been a 3-year initiative through IHHS’s Division of Public Health, which was funded by the CDC through the BOLD Act, to promote public health infrastructure that can increase early detection and diagnosis, reduce risks through prevention efforts, and support caregivers and care partners of persons living with dementia (PLWD).

In response to this initiative, Iowa’s Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and key stakeholders (e.g., Alzheimer’s Association, Iowa Chapter) reviewed the local dementia services provided in Wisconsin and Georgia that add dementia specialists to AAAs or Aging and Disability Resource Centers workforces to meet the growing demand for local supports and services for PLWD and their caregivers or care partners. Based on this review, Iowa’s AAA leaders, in collaboration with stakeholders, agreed that adding a Dementia Services Specialist at each AAA would enhance access to support and services, increase opportunities for early detection, and assist in prevention efforts. Further, the AAAs believe that this builds upon collaborative work already underway through the aging network’s Dementia Friendly Iowa initiative, which blends activities from the Dementia Friends Iowa program at the Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging (i4a) and Iowa Dementia Friendly Communities program at Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging.

“This appears to be a natural fit and a forward-thinking next step in supporting Iowans living with dementia and their care partners,” said Joe Sample, i4a’s director of policy and outreach said. “By adding a Dementia Services Specialist expert at each AAA, persons living with dementia, their loved ones and care partners, local businesses, and community members can have enhanced access to dementia-related services and programs within their respective planning and service areas which make a substantial impact on the lives of Iowans,” said Sample.

To establish this needed service, i4a is advocating for an appropriation of $750,000 to IHHS so that the AAAs, which are non-profit organizations designated to provide services to older Iowans, adults with disabilities, and family caregivers and care partners, can hire local Dementia Services Specialists and maintain a statewide coordinator for the program. “This is an easy ‘win’ for policymakers, who likely have someone they know or love affected by dementia, to make a real difference with minimal investment,” said Sample.

Review and download i4a’s 2023 policy agenda below:

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