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March 12, 2012

South Carolina Silver Alert Praised by State Rep. Rita Allison

by silveralertbill

Since 2010, South Carolina has had a Silver Alert program, which it calls an Endangered Persons Advisory. Now state Representative Rita Allison has published an oped in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal to draw attention to this worthy program to help find missing seniors.

Like me, I’m sure you know someone who is elderly and suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Perhaps it’s even a family member. As these conditions worsen, their effects are devastating to those suffering from them, and also to their loved ones and care-givers.

We have all heard stories of individuals afflicted with these conditions often wandering off, even driving off, and becoming hopelessly lost, often ending in tragedy because authorities simply don’t have sufficient personnel to adequately search for these unfortunate souls. The Endangered Person Advisory is designed to supplement law enforcement’s eyes when searching for one of these individuals.

The way the advisory works is this: It is essentially housed at the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) within its Missing Person Information Center. If the center receives a report that involves a missing person who is believed to be suffering from dementia or some other cognitive impairment (regardless of age), the center will distribute all appropriate information to local radio and television stations for local broadcast.

Broadcasting this information will alert the public to be on the lookout for the missing person. Putting thousands of additional eyes on our streets, highways and sidewalks will increase the possibility of a successful recovery and a happier ending to an unfortunate situation.

Efforts are being made now to ensure that our law enforcement agencies and personnel are aware of the Endangered Person Advisory System, and with its creation we now have a perfect three-legged stool for recovering lost or abducted persons — the Amber Alert, Endangered Persons Advisory System and the Blue Alert. These are three tools in our belt to save and preserve lives.

Rep. Allison’s oped prompted a followup letter to the editor praising the Texas Silver Alert program.

I recently returned from a trip to Texas where I experienced firsthand the value of such a system. My trip was prompted by a telephone call relating that my 81-year-old father had lost his way one evening while attempting to drive back to his apartment. He was located in an unfamiliar and unsafe neighborhood through the efforts of law enforcement and was returned safely, but he had been driving aimlessly for several hours. I was not aware until then that he was experiencing the early stages of dementia. My siblings and I relocated him to an assisted care facility.

Texas has a Silver Alert system in place to protect its elderly citizens. Like the Endangered Persons Advisory, it augments police radio with postings on digital highway signs, informing citizens of the type of car and tag number of a missing person. As I returned to the Dallas airport, secure in the knowledge that my dad was safe, I viewed a Silver Alert scrolling on the interstate sign about another man and silently thanked God for this tool. It is comforting to know that a similar system is present in South Carolina so that adults here may receive the protection of citizen and law enforcement cooperation.

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