Two United States Senators, Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) have urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund a new federal office to find missing adults.
In a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senators Warner and Blumenthal write “it is imperative that the Ashanti Alert Act receives sufficient funding in order to advance its goals of transforming the lives and safety of Americans. Fully funding this program ensures that the Department of Justice, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders have the necessary resources to make the Ashanti Alert network as helpful and effective as possible.”
The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice to establish a national communications network, named the Ashanti Alert, to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults. Under the new law, the Attorney General must designate a national coordinator to work with states to establish Ashanti Alert systems and to develop voluntary guidelines that states (as well as territories) should use in creating their networks.
President Donald Trump signed the Ashanti Alert Act into law in December 2018. But to date, the U.S. Department of Justice has not made an effort to implement the law. In March, Senator Warner wrote to Attorney General William Barr seeking an update on the implementation of Ashanti Alert at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Connecticut has had a statewide Silver Alert since 2009, when it was enacted with the support of then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal:
“Very simply, a Silver Alert saves lives, Blumenthal said. “Senior citizens with Alzheimer’s Disease or forms of dementia — mothers, fathers, grandparents and other loves ones — may wander from home and endanger their health and safety. The Silver Alert idea was brought to my attention by senior advocates who seek to quickly locate missing seniors. Especially during the cold winter or inclement weather, the longer a person is missing, the higher the likelihood of harm.”
Now several recent events have put renewed focus on the Connecticut Silver Alert program:
- State lawmakers voted to expand Connecticut’s Silver Alert program, a clearinghouse for information on certain missing people. Silver Alert now extends to patients reported missing from any Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services facility.
- On May 22, 2012, a Silver Alert was issued for 78-year-old Martin Anflick. Anflick went missing in Danbury, Connecticut and was later found alive 140 miles away in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
- On May 19, 2012 Fairfield firefighters rescued a disoriented for 90-year-old woman from Quincy, Massachusetts, 170 miles away. The local firefighters’ union planned to pay for a hotel room for the elderly woman until a relative arrived the next day to take her home, but with many visitors in town for theFairfield University graduation that weekend, no rooms were available. Instead, he said, she ended up spending the night at the Jennings Road Fire Station.
According to the Fairfield Citizen, the cases of the two missing seniors highlighted the growing problem of missing seniors across state lines:
“The incidents reinforce the need for seniors, and their families and caregivers, to take steps to ensure emergency personnel will be able to quickly find contact information if they become disabled or confused.
“More and more seniors are still driving,” Smith said, and incidents like the two recent Fairfield cases are becoming more common. He also suggested senior drivers make sure they always have a cell phone with them that includes emergency contact numbers.”