Senate approves police training for Alzheimer’s, neurological disorders

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate on Wednesday approved legislation creating law enforcement training related to interacting with people with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.

Senate Bill 570 would amend the current law establishing a training curriculum regarding autism. The West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services and the West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association will be responsible for assisting the state with designing the courses, which will include training on identifying people with neurological disorders and matters like elder abuse.

The Senate unanimously passed the bill, 34-0.

Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone — the legislation’s lead sponsor — said the measure will ensure officers receive appropriate training on interacting with people with Alzheimer’s disease.

During a speech on the Senate floor, Stollings, a physician, described an incident involving a patient and law enforcement in which the police officer pulled a man from a car, unaware of his health.

“He was kind of drug out of a car and ended up on the ground. Certainly, that made everyone feel bad, including the police officer,” the senator said. “I think this training is going to help prevent that.”

The training will include at least two hours of instruction related to disorders, effective communication with individuals, identifying abuse and neglect, and techniques for de-escalating dangerous situations.

“This is a great bill, a good step for the police officers,” Stollings said. “Maybe other first responders down the road could can have this training.”

Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, said the instruction should result in better responses to missing person calls.

“I can tell you the police are often having to find these folks when they are in the stage where they wander and get lost,” she said.

Some lawmakers who spoke Wednesday noted family members who have neurological disorders. Rucker said she had a family member with dementia, and Sen. Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, stated his grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease.

“I can envision how it could have easily happened to him if he had been out in a car or got pulled over and seemed a bit disenchanted,” Maynard said.

The House of Delegates will receive the measure. Delegates introduced a companion bill on Feb. 2 — House Bill 4521 — yet the House Health and Human Resources Committee has not passed the legislation.

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