A few years ago, Rep. Karl Allen (D-Greenville) said he learned about a woman in his county who froze to death after an electric utility cut off her power. Although she had enough money to pay her bills, the woman’s dementia likely caused her to forget.
The utility sent someone to the residence but, after a knock on the door brought no answer, Allen said the worker left a card then walked to the side of the house to cut off the power. The customer’s reclusive nature meant she was not found until days later.
Allen said he wants to make sure that does not happen again.
He introduced a bill last year that would offer additional protections for Alzheimer’s patients, requiring utilities to classify them as “special needs account customers.” The bill would require the patient’s health provider to certify that the person suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Once that happens, the utility would have to notify a third party before cutting off service due to nonpayment.
The bill unanimously passed both the House last year and the Senate this year. It now only needs the governor’s signature to become law.
“Alzheimer’s is a very debilitating disease and they cannot protect themselves,” Allen said, “So they need a voice.”
Current law already requires the special needs accounts for cases when shutting off the power would be dangerous for the customer’s health.
Allen said most of the state’s utilities support the measure and are educating their members about the need for the special accounts.