August 6, 2009
Governor Bredesen signs “Silver Alert System”
(NASHVILLE, TN), August 6, 2009 – Governor Phil Bredesen signed legislation on Tuesday creating a “Silver Alert System” that would work like the “Amber Alert System” to help locate missing individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias. The bill, HB 346, is sponsored by Rep. Jim Hackworth (D-Clinton) and Senators Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and Ken Yager (R-Harriman). The new law calls for local law enforcement agencies to coordinate with non-profit organizations such as A Child is Missing or the Alzheimer’s Association to aid in their efforts to put the program in place.
“The creation of the Silver Alert System will provide us a tool for saving lives,” said Representative Hackworth. “Like the Amber Alert System, created to help find lost children, our senior citizens and their families can rest better knowing they can now get help when a senior is missing. I am proud to have been able to work with the TBI, my colleagues, and AARP for creating and establishing this new system.”
“We already have much of the framework through the Amber Alert Program to put a Silver Alert Program in place,” said Senator McNally. “Like the national Amber Alert program, this new law calls on local law enforcement agencies to work in tandem with the media and transportation officials in alerting the public of a missing senior.”
“There is a critical 24-hour time period in which to locate missing seniors,” added Senator Yager. “The Silver Alert program is designed to quickly disseminate descriptive information about the missing person, so that citizens in the affected area can be on the lookout for the endangered person and notify local law enforcement with any relevant information.”
The bill defines “missing senior citizen” as a person 60 years old or older whose “whereabouts are unknown” and who has “an impaired mental condition as determined by a local law enforcement agency.” The Silver Alert would be triggered if that missing person is believed to be in danger because of environmental or weather conditions, or is thought to be unable to return to safety without assistance.
Approximately 100,000 Tennesseans and as many as 5.2 million nationwide are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The Silver Alert system is working in eight states, and has resulted in the safe return of a majority of those reported.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has reported that six in 10 of those with Alzheimer’s disease will wander away and become disoriented. Half of those who wander are found within five miles of their home. Of those not found within 24 hours, half will be seriously injured or die.
“This legislation brings a community to their aid in such a crisis to take advantage of the short window of time needed to bring these vulnerable citizens home to avert a tragedy,” Senator McNally concluded.