TRENTON – Legislation to make New Jersey the 11th state with a “Silver Alert” system to notify the public about missing persons, of all ages, who are believed to be suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairments was signed into law Wednesday by acting Gov. Richard J. Codey.
The plan is based on the “Amber Alert” system used by state police to locate missing children.
“Unfortunately, it’s common for an elderly loved one suffering from dementia and other ailments to wander,” said Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This can be dangerous and even life-threatening for our loved ones and stressful for caregivers and family. This new system would be a common sense step toward protecting those who deserve our best, the elderly.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 60 percent of those with dementia will wander at some point. Under the law, the emergency alert plan will be a voluntary, cooperative effort between state and local law enforcement agencies and the broadcast media. Upon notice by the state police, broadcast media will transmit an emergency alert to inform the public of the disappearance of an elderly person or a younger person suffering from a cognitive impairment such as autism.
The alerts will include a description of the person and how people with information relating to the missing person can contact law enforcement.
“This offers a quick way to alert the public and law enforcement about missing individuals with impairments, and time is often of the essence in these situations, so we should do anything we can to help hastily distribute information,” said Assemblywoman Sandi Love (D- Camden/Gloucester).
“Statistics show at least half of those with dementia who wander away suffer serious injury or death if not found within 24 hours,” said Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “That’s reason enough to get this into law.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New Jersey joins Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia with “Silver Alert” systems.
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