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Bill creates optional police training on dealing with people who have Alzheimer's

State Sen. Danny Burgess, R-
Florida Legislature via livestream
State Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, presented SB 208 to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday.

A bill creating an Alzheimer's disease training program for law enforcement officers is making its way through the Florida Senate.

The training in Senate Bill 208 would be optional and count toward continuing education.

The online course would be created by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in consultation with the Department of Elder Affairs. It would teach police officers how to interact and communicate with people who have dementia and how to recognize their behaviors. Officers would learn to use alternatives to physical restraints and to spot the signs of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

At a hearing Tuesday of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, bill co-sponsor Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, responded to questions on why the course isn't mandatory.

"I think this is a great step in the right direction, looking at ways that we can ensure that we are providing additional training opportunities, but also not tying the hands of our law enforcement officials who already have a lot on their plate," Burgess said.

Senior Public Policy Analyst Olivia Babis Keller of Disability Rights Florida spoke in favor of the bill. She supported the idea of making the course mandatory and urged input from families affected by Alzheimer's.

"[W]e have a couple training bills this session that are a great first step, but we don't want this to be the last step," she said. "There does need to be more."

The committed approved the bill without opposition.

The prevalence of Alzheimer's is increasing in Florida. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that by next year 720-thousand Florida seniors will have the disease.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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