By Cai Yoke, Advocacy Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter
The Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter is thrilled to announce that the 2020 Legislator of the Year has been awarded to Representative Sharon Cooper of the 43rd district, for her work on HB 987 and her tireless efforts to improve the standards of care in Georgia’s assisted living facilities and memory care units.
For the past few years, advocates and leaders in the aging community have identified the critical need for addressing the standards of care in Georgia’s senior care industry. This fight to secure senior care reform garnered significant momentum in the fall of 2019, when an investigative series authored by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution uncovered patterns of neglect and abuse in assisted living facilities and memory care centers throughout the state.
In seeing these troubling reports, Rep. Sharon Cooper immediately rolled up her sleeves and went to work, collaborating with constituents, advocates, aging organizations, and care providers themselves to imagine and create a bill that would adequately address and prevent the problems many constituents were enduring in these facilities.
That bill would become HB 987, and as its primary co-sponsor, Rep. Cooper would prove to be absolutely instrumental in addressing and resolving the many obstacles we encountered as the bill made its way through the state legislature, including the abrupt adjournment of the legislative session due to COVID-19.
Due to Rep. Cooper persistence and tenacity and the efforts of hundreds of advocates throughout the state, including the 90 advocates who came to the Capitol in early March to urge their Senators to pass the bill, HB 987 was signed into law in June and will take effect July 1, 2021. In its passage, HB 987 establishes a framework for memory care in Georgia and establishes important training, staffing, and regulations that will radically improve the quality of care in these settings.
After receiving the Legislator of the Year Award, Rep. Sharon Cooper thanked advocates for all their work to ensure this bill’s success:
“Thank you for this special recognition and thank you to all the advocates who came to the Capitol and talked to the Representatives and Senators – hearing it from people who are dealing with Alzheimer’s makes all the difference in the world. HB987 was one of the hardest bills I have ever worked on, yet so rewarding.”
Despite this landmark victory, we know we still have much to accomplish to ensure that Georgians affected by dementia receive the care and support services they need. We are so proud and so excited to move forward in this fight with champions like Representative Sharon Cooper, and with our incredible and dedicated advocates!