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DHS Secretary holds roundtable discussion in Menasha on dementia care specialists

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 5:35 PM CDT
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MENASHA, Wis. (WBAY) - The Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary hosted a roundtable in Menasha Thursday to learn more about dementia care specialists. The hope is to convince legislators a multi-million dollar investment into the state program is worthwhile.

The talk was held at the Fox Valley Memory Project, a nonprofit that provides programming and resources to those with dementia and their caregivers.

“We work very closely with the two dementia care specialists here covering Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, and Calumet Counties. It has been a tremendous resource to us, and we’ve been a tremendous resource to them,” said Executive Director Mike Rohrkaste. “It has been a great relationship, and we’re able to provide better support and services to families going through the journey of dementia.”

Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) representatives, country representatives, and area care givers all got a chance to participate in the discussion with DHS Secretary Karen Timberlake.

All hoping she can help secure more funding for programs that assist people with dementia and their families.

“There is a huge need here, and hopefully she will get people involved from the state level,” said Bev Wiita, a caregiver.

“I have confidence in that. I think they [lent] a good ear today and I think they understand in speaking with all of us, all us caregivers, and the journey we’ve been on and the need in this community and everywhere,” said Alice Pollock, another caregiver who also works with the Fox Valley Memory Project.

Governor Evers allotted $7 million for ADRCs and $3.5 million specifically for dementia care specialists in his Badger Bounceback plan.

“We don’t have them in every ADRC across the state, and so by learning more about how valuable these team members are it really helps us make the case to our legislature that, as part of Governor Evers budget, we really should be working to expand the dementia care specialist program all across our state,” said Timberlake.

Timberlake certainly learned about their helpfulness when hearing firsthand from caregivers on what they face when a family member starts to experience dementia.

“It sort of happens before your very eyes and all of a sudden you’re in a place where you have a loved one who needs attention 24/7, you yourself may still be working, or you had other plans for your life that suddenly got disrupted,” said Timberlake. “So, the work of the dementia care specialist really helps people get the support and services they need to keep people living safely at home to maintain as much independence as is possible and to really help caregivers with that overall quality of life.”

Rohrkaste, a former Republican Assembly member, and Timberlake are hopeful that on this issue the governor and legislators will be able to come together.

“Dementia is a bipartisan issue. Dementia affects everybody. When I was in the legislature we had great bipartisan support for expanding the dementia care specialist positions, putting more money into the respite program accounts,” said Rohrkaste. “So, hopefully that will continue.”

“I will say that I am cautiously optimistic that we can see more investment into our ADRCs, more investment in our dementia care specialists as the governor’s budget moves through the process,” said Timberlake.

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