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February 25, 2015

Wisconsin Silver Alert Program Posts Early Success in First Seven Months of Operation

by meghgarland

Statewide Silver Alert Delivers Success to Wisconsin

August 1, 2014 may have been an ordinary day for most people, but for senior citizens and their families living in Wisconsin, August 1st may have changed their lives. What does this day have to do with senior citizens in Wisconsin? On that day last year, Attorney General, J. B. Van Hollen announced that Wisconsin would begin their state wide Silver Alert Program.

Silver Alert is very similar to an Amber Alert, however it is used for seniors over the age of 65 who have gone missing who may have dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or another mental illness or disease. The goal of the Silver Alert is to locate these missing seniors and return them safely to their homes. In order for a Silver Alert to be activated, local authorities ask the state highway patrol to send out electronic bulletins providing information about the missing person or people.

Wisconsin’s Silver Alert program was first inspired in 2013 when a woman diagnosed with dementia, Claire Baeb, and her husband, Leo were found several hundred miles away from their destination to visit family.. Such long-distance wanderings are not unusual. According to Wyeth Ruthven, Executive Director of Silver Alert Coalition, 83 cases of Silver Alerts have been documented since 2009 in which a senior went missing in one state and was found in another state.

In three short months, the legislation to enable Wisconsin to begin their Silver Alert Program, Assembly Bill 710, was introduced, discussed and voted on, and passed. On the 31 of January, 2014 Bill 710 was introduced to the House by Representatives Skowronski, Kaufert, Weininger, Thiesfeldt, Kulp, Tittl, Bies, Ballweg, Petryk, Brooks, Krug, Kleefisch, Knodl, Czaja, Swearingen, Endsley and Kerkman, and was cosponsored by Senators Carpenter, L. Taylor and Gudex. After the consideration of many committees, it was voted on and passed unanimously.

After signing Assembly Bill 710 Assembly Bill 710 last April, Governor Walker said “When an elderly person living with the effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s is missing, every minute counts.” Wisconsin, along with 41 other states, have now enacted Silver Alert or another program similar to Silver Alert.

As of January 2015, approximately 116,000 people with dementia are living in Wisconsin and reportedly 60% of them will wander sometime during the progression of their disease, as reported by the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network. Implementing a Silver Alert in Wisconsin has had positive feedback, especially from Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen who said, “Silver Alerts will help families and law enforcement locate vulnerable seniors more quickly and bring them home unharmed. I’m thankful to lawmakers, the Governor and our citizen partners in working toward this important tool in furthering public safety.

In the seven months that Silver Alert has been effective in Wisconsin, Fox 6 News had reported that there have been 18 alerts sent out publicly, 15 of which have resulted in the missing senior being found and reunited with their family and loved ones.

Claire Baeb is thankful for the legislation of Silver Alert in Wisconsin, as she knows how critical it can be to help locate someone who has gone missing with dementia or Alzheimer’s. “We hope that everyone supports Silver Alert. One day you may need it yourself.”

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