Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-New City) announced the Assembly passed legislation he sponsored that would create the Missing Vulnerable Adults Clearinghouse (A.676-B). Similar to the state’s Amber Alert system, this measure would provide for the plan and implementation of programs to ensure the most effective use of federal, state and local resources in the investigation of missing vulnerable adults.
“Unfortunately, for many adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other cognitive impairments and mental disabilities, their illnesses can occasionally render them in a confused and disoriented state, leaving them susceptible to wandering,” Zebrowski said. “By establishing a new alert system, we can provide assistance to the families of missing at-risk adults during a time when they need it most.”
A recent study found that more than 60 percent of people with Alzheimer’s will wander at some point during their illness.i Due to the nature of their disease, wandering individuals are often unaware of their surroundings, risking injury to themselves or others, exposure to harsh weather conditions or falling victim to other medical emergencies, Zebrowski added.
Under the legislation, the alert system would be issued for any vulnerable individual age 18 or older who has been diagnosed with a cognitive impairment, mental disability or brain disorder and whose disappearance has been determined by law enforcement to pose a credible threat of harm to themselves or others. This alert would use the media, transportation outlets – including the New York State Thruway Authority – law enforcement officials in neighboring states and the appropriate websites to locate the missing person and would be issued within 24 hours of the adult being identified and reported as missing.
In addition, the new alert system would provide cooperation with the Department of Health, Office of Mental Health, Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Office for the Aging and other public and private organizations to develop educational and preventive programs concerning the safety of vulnerable adults.
“This commonsense legislation would provide some peace of mind to the families of vulnerable adults when they suddenly go missing because a plan of action would be in place,” Zebrowski said. “I will continue working to make sure our most at-risk residents have the protection and support they need.”