SENATOR JOHNNY ELLIS
Senate Minority Leader
State Capitol Bldg. Rm 7 • (907) 465-3704 • Fax 465-2529
Sen.Johnny.Ellis@akleg.gov • alaskasenatedems.com/ellis
Serving Anchorage’s Airport Heights • Downtown • Fairview
Government Hill • Mountain View • Russian Jack • South Addition
For Immediate Release: April 10th, 2013
Senate Unanimously Passes “Silver Alert” Legislation
JUNEAU – House Bill 59, a bill creating a public notification system for missing seniors and vulnerable adults, passed the Senate unanimously this afternoon. Senator Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage), a cross-sponsor of the bill and the prime sponsor of its Senate companion, praised the 20-0 vote.
“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’ve heard about this bill is ‘Why the heck haven’t we done this already?’”
Similar to the “Amber Alert” system for missing children, House Bill 59 creates 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 who go missing.
The bill received overwhelming support from testifiers during Senate State Affairs and Judiciary committee hearings. 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 he observes of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder going wandering in distressed mental states.
Thirty-eight other states have “Silver Alerts” or related programs with demonstrated success in improving the outcomes of missing person searches for a vulnerable adult. Alaska has a particular need for a “Silver Alert” program given the state’s harsh weather and vast wilderness, coupled with its 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 a missing vulnerable adult through television, radio, and social media.
House Bill 59 was sponsored by Rep. Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage). Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) joined Sen. Ellis as an early cosponsor and champion of the legislation. It now returns to the House for a concurrence vote on minor Senate changes before heading to the Governor for his signature.
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