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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

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Location: Washington, DC

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By Mr. KOHL (for himself and Mr. MANCHIN):

S. 1263. A bill to encourage, enhance, and integrate Silver Alert plans throughout the United States and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today with Senator MANCHIN to introduce the Silver Alert Act of 2011. This legislation increases the chances of quickly locating missing senior citizens by establishing a national communications network to help regional and local search efforts.

Every year, thousands of adults go missing from their homes or care facilities due to diminished mental capacity, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or other circumstances. As the population of the United States ages, that number is likely to increase. Over five million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease, and it is estimated that 60 percent of these men and women are likely to wander away from their homes. Disorientation and confusion may keep many from finding their way back home. The safe return of missing persons often depends upon them being found quickly. If not found within 24 hours, roughly half risk serious illness, injury, or death. Only four percent of those Alzheimer's sufferers who leave home are able to get back without some assistance.

Our bill would create a national program to coordinate existing state-based Silver Alert plans so that missing seniors can be returned safely to their homes and families. Not only will a federal network increase the success of efforts to find missing seniors, but it also eliminates duplicative search efforts, saving the public time and money. The Silver Alert Act creates this needed Federal network.

The Amber Alert system, which the Silver Alert Act is modeled after, has a track record of success. The Amber Alert Act created a similar Federal program that filters information and transmits relevant details to the appropriate authorities as quickly as possible. Just as with missing and abducted children, timely notification and dissemination of appropriate information about missing seniors greatly improves the chances that they will be found before they are seriously harmed. Silver Alert plans use the same infrastructure as Amber Alert plans, so this Act enables us to protect another vulnerable group in our population, at very little additional cost.

Over half of States have responded to the problem of missing seniors by establishing Silver Alert plans. These plans have created public notification systems triggered by the report of a missing senior. Postings on highways, radio, television, and other forms of media broadcast information about the missing senior to locate him or her, and return the senior safely home.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

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