ANCHORAGE – Today, the Governor signed House Bill 59, creating rapid response and notification plans for law enforcement to activate when a vulnerable adult goes missing. The bill’s protections would apply to senior citizens with dementia, adults with developmental disabilities, veterans suffering from PTSD, and other disabled adults.
House Bill 59 was introduced by Representative Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage). Senator Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage) cross-sponsored the bill and was the prime sponsor of its Senate companion.
“Much like the Amber Alert helps find missing children, the Silver Alert can save lives by coordinating efforts to find seniors and vulnerable adults, should they go missing,” said Representative Gruenberg.
The bill received overwhelming support from public, senior, and disability advocates in the Legislature. Silver Alert supporter Michael VanVleet, a disabled Iraq War veteran who works at Ft. Richardson’s Warrior Transition Unit, said it was a much-needed tool to address the problem of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“Creating a ‘Silver Alert’ in Alaska has been a top priority for numerous organizations that represent seniors, veterans, and the disabled,” said Senator Ellis. “The only concern I ever heard about this bill is ‘Why the heck haven’t we done this already?’”
Alaska now joins thirty-eight other states with “Silver Alerts” or related programs with demonstrated success in improving the outcomes of missing person searches for vulnerable adults. Alaska has a particular need for a “Silver Alert” program, given the state’s harsh weather and vast wilderness, coupled with its large number of active military members and veterans, as well as a growing senior population.
The program will be designed by the Alaska Department of Public Safety, in cooperation with the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs, to best incorporate the voluntary cooperation of media outlets in notifying the public of missing vulnerable adults through television, radio, and social media.
Please call Rep. Gruenberg’s office at 269-0123 with any questions.