August 1, 2014

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Proposal would create alert program for missing elderly

COLUMBUS — Ohio would create a statewide emergency-alert program to locate missing elderly persons or adults with mental impairments under legislation working its way through the General Assembly.

The system would allow police to use a statewide law enforcement network to notify other agencies of missing adults who are in danger because they can not take care of themselves, said Sgt. Dale Gillette of the Ross County Sheriff’s Office.

Information would also be sent to newspapers and radio and television stations to alert the public.

“If you don’t find a missing adult that has Alzheimer’s within the first 24 hours, the chances of finding that person alive and well goes down dramatically,” Gillette said.

Ohio would join a handful of other states, including Colorado, Texas and North Carolina, that have adopted such systems, dubbed “Silver Alert.” The effort is similar to the Amber Alert child abduction system.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Carey, a Republican from Wellston in southern Ohio, was approved in the Senate last year and is now before a House committee.

Carey said there are no opponents but it’s taken time to pull together support from broadcasters, sheriff’s offices and the Ohio Council of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The bill requires police to determine that a person is missing and in danger before notifying other agencies. The person would have to be 65 or older or have a mental impairment.

The alert program would supplement the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return program, said Steve Olding, spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati.

That program issues a person an identification number placed on a bracelet or clothing at a cost of $40. The program enters that information into a database accessible throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Through another national program for missing adults with mental disorders, Project Lifesaver, participating adults each wear a bracelet with a transmitter.

It emits a radio frequency that can be tracked on the ground or by air over several miles by law enforcement agencies with special equipment.