A new law goes into effect Friday that will aid law enforcement and social service agencies in finding missing at-risk adults.

The Silver Alert program works for adults with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive impairments much the same way the Amber Alert works for missing children, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a written statement Thursday.

“Whenever a loved one goes missing, time is critical,” Attorney General Van Hollen said.  “Silver Alerts will help families and law enforcement locate vulnerable seniors more quickly and bring them home unharmed.”

This new system comes too late to save Rueben Santos, who walked away from his Racine group home last December and is believed to have frozen to death.

The Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin says there are around 116,000 individuals living with dementia and approximately 60 percent of them will wander away as their condition worsens, Van Hollen’s statement reads.

Silver Alert is a partnership between the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, the Outdoor Advertising Association of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Alerts will be issued if the missing adult meets this criteria:

  • The missing person is 60 years of age or older;
  • The missing person is believed to have Alzheimer’s, dementia, or another permanent cognitive impairment that poses a threat to the individual’s health and safety;
  • There is reasonable belief that the missing person’s disappearance is due to the individual’s impaired cognitive condition;
  • The Silver Alert request is made within 72 hours of the individual’s disappearance;
  • There is sufficient information available to disseminate to the public that could assist in locating the missing person.

For those who don’t meet the age requirement but suffer from brain injuries, dementia or other impairment, a Missing/Endangered alert can be issued through the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network.

The public is invited to sign up for these alerts at visit http://www.wisconsincrimealert.gov/.

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