Weisenberg: Legislation creating missing adult alert system signed into law

August 1, 2011
The governor has signed legislation (Ch.222 of 2011) that I helped sponsor in the Assembly, creating a statewide alert system similar to the Amber Alert to assist families of vulnerable adults to help find their missing loved ones. This new law will bring together federal, state and local resources including law enforcement and emergency personnel. Many organizations across the state have supported the Alert system, including the Coalition of Alzheimer’s Associations of New York and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

This new alert system will use the same infrastructure as the Amber Alert system to put out statewide alerts when a vulnerable adult with cognitive disabilities is reported missing. We know that certain diseases, such as dementia, allow a person to wander and not know where they are going or even where they live. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 60 percent of people with dementia will wander away from home at some point. This can create a very dangerous situation, especially if they do not have any identification on them.

Now, when families alert authorities of a missing family member, law enforcement, transportation authorities, the media and certain web outlets will be used to post information on the missing person. Law enforcement in neighboring states will also be notified, in case the person crossed state lines. The law also requires law enforcement personnel to be trained to take care of adults who have gone missing and are cognitively impaired.

Bringing all these entities together in a coordinated effort to help find missing people is a positive step forward in caring for and protecting the most vulnerable of our society. The Amber Alert system itself has been very successful, both throughout the state and the country1 .

Remember that time is critical when someone goes missing. Studies have shown that 50 percent of those who are not found within 24 hours are at serious risk for injury or death.

If you are sure someone has gone missing, immediately contact the authorities, and be sure to:

  • Give the missing person’s full name, date of birth, and social security number;
  • Detail where and when they were last seen, and if they had any plans to go somewhere else;
  • Provide any information about what they were wearing and their physical characteristics;
  • Provide a clear picture of them;
  • Be sure to include any details on any medical issues they may have and include information about medications that they are taking

I believe that this new law creates an essential new program to help our families protect their loved ones, who are some of our most vulnerable citizens. This new law will help to save lives.

1 “Recovery of missing boy highlights Amber Alert’s effectiveness,” 1/8/2011, YNN, http://capitalregion.ynn.com/content/top_stories/529390/recovery-of-missing-boy-highlights-amber-alert-s-effectiveness/