COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – South Carolina has solidified a strategic, statewide plan in the fight against a “growing public health crisis.”

Wednesday morning, Governor Henry McMaster was joined by the South Carolina Alzheimer’s Association, state agency leaders, and members of the General Assembly for a ceremonial bill signing of S. 569, which requires the advisory council for the Department on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Resource Coordination Center to maintain and update a comprehensive statewide plan to address Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

“As many of us know all too well, Alzheimer’s is a cruel and fatal disease, impacting over a hundred thousand South Carolina families each year,” McMaster said. “With this signing, we create a unified, long-term approach to combating Alzheimer’s, allowing our state to maximize its resources, and signal to all families battling this disease that South Carolina is committed to improving care and treatment until we find a cure.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 95,0000 people living with Alzheimer’s, and 216,000 family members or friends providing unpaid care for them in South Carolina.

Researchers expect there will be 120,000 people living with Alzheimer’s by 2025 in the Palmetto State.

The advisory council must gather input from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the Department of Social Services (DSS) to ensure the plan meets the needs of the state.

“South Carolina has many, many challenges as we face a dementia crisis that plagues our state. From a lack of geriatricians and neurologists to scarce resources for patients and families, we have unfortunately fallen behind for far too long,” said South Carolina Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington). “Through this newly codified state plan, we will be able to identify the resources we need, where we need them, and the best way to obtain them so that South Carolina no longer lags behind our neighbors but can become a leader in this field.”

South Carolina’s latest Statewide Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias was released in February of 2023. Before this year, the plan was last updated in 2009. 

The council must submit an annual report to the governor and the General Assembly by September 30, concerning the plan’s progress and must update the plan in 2028 and every five years after that. 

“Today, South Carolina takes the first step to make sustainable change for families facing dementia,” said Taylor Wilson, Chair of the Alzheimer’s Resource Coordination Center Advisory Council. “This bill ensures that progress will be shared annually with the legislature and also ensures that we do not give up at the end of five years, it certifies we will come back to the table to plan and implement lifelines to caregivers across this state with strategic purpose and vision.”  

The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously.