BANGOR, Maine — If an adult with dementia, Alzheimer’s or other impaired mental status walks away from home or disappears while shopping at the mall, police now can quickly issue a “silver alert” to help find them.
The silver alert, part of a new state law that took effect July 12, is modeled after the Amber Alert system used to alert the public to watch out for missing or abducted children.
Silver alerts are geared for missing senior citizens, and those younger with “irreversible deterioration of intellectual faculties,” and whose “disappearance poses a credible threat to the safety and health of the person,” the law states.
The alerts would notify police, the media, highway and turnpike officials of the missing persons.
“It’s a big help,” Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said Tuesday, adding the department has not had to use the new alert system yet.
Typically, when a missing person is reported to police there is a 24-hour waiting period before officers begin to actively search for the person, he said, explaining that most of those calls involve teenagers and usually “within 24 hours we get a call back” saying the person has been found or has returned home.
Under the silver alert, “we get it into the system within two hours,” Edwards said. “When there are dementia issues, the quicker the better.”
Maine is now one of 26 states that offer the silver alert system.
Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the sponsor of the bill, said Tuesday that with the state’s aging population, having the senior citizen alert system in place is a no-brainer.
She said the story of William Young, 77, and his wife, Claire, spurred her to take action. Young had dementia and left his Auburn home in April 2009 and never returned. His body was found five days later in the woods 150 miles away.
“We had a tragedy in this community a couple of years ago when Bill Young was lost,” she said.
Rotundo said that she and Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell believe that “if some sort of alert had been in place, Bill would have been found. It’s a tragic story and we hope with the new law that no one will have to suffer the heartbreak that Claire has suffered.”
Now, “the next time someone wanders, there is a system in place to find that person before it’s too late,” Rotundo said.