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Senator Ellis Introduces Legislation Promoting Senior Safety

Bill Would Create a Rapid Notification System for Locating Missing Vulnerable Adults

JUNEAU – Senator Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage) introduced legislation today championed by advocates for senior citizens and disabled adults that would assist Alaska law enforcement agencies in searching for missing vulnerable adults.

“Two years ago in Fairbanks, a 63-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease froze to death after she became disoriented while driving, ran out of gas, and tried walking several miles to seek help,” said Patrick Cunningham, a Board Member of the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Agency of Alaska.  “This tragic incident and several others like it demonstrate the need for an alert system to assist in the search for missing vulnerable adults. When a vulnerable adult goes missing, his or her best chance of survival is if someone finds them within 24 to 48 hours.”

Similar to the “Amber Alert” system for missing children, SB 36 would create a statewide network for notifying the public when a mentally or physically impaired adult goes missing.  It calls for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs to work in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Public Safety to develop plans for using both statewide and local media outlets to broadcast information to the public about missing vulnerable adults. 

The bill is a priority for organizations representing seniors and the disabled.  “With the senior population in Alaska increasing, missing vulnerable adults will be a growing issue of concern,” said Marie Darlin, Coordinator of the AARP’s Capital City Task Force, in support of the legislation.

Public awareness would increase the chances of finding a missing adult with mental or physical disabilities before harm comes to them and potentially save public safety agencies money by achieving this without extended searches.

“This bill is a common-sense effort to protect Alaska’s seniors and mentally-disabled adults,” stated Sen. Ellis, “It won’t cost the state a dime, but it will be invaluable in preventing tragedy for Alaskans when a vulnerable loved one goes missing.  Helping Alaskan law enforcement agencies by harnessing Alaskans’ tradition of helping a friend and neighbor in need is just common sense.”

Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) joined as the first co-sponsor of the legislation.

For more information, please call Nathan Zencey at (907) 465-3704 or email at nathan.zencey@akleg.gov

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