NYS Missing Adults - Silver Alert

- When Donna Wrobbel was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, she cried. Then she and her family began confronting their fears. At the top of the list? The possibility she'd get disoriented while travelling, or wander away from home and get lost.

"I wanted some way to have somebody to be able to be notified," says Donna. "There've been a few occasions when we haven't been able to get in touch with her on the phone," says Donna's daughter, Kristen Berns. "And one of us has ended up coming over here to check on her."

Donna's fears are not unfounded. Across the country, public service announcements are getting the word out about Silver Alert. It's a system for finding missing vulnerable adults - people with dementia, autism or other mental disability. The alerts only go into effect if the missing person is at credible risk of harm.

In New York State, the law went into effect in late 2011. In 2012, 503 reports of missing vulnerable adults were made to police agencies across the state, 24 of them were activated as alerts.

That same year, 33 reports were made to police agencies in Monroe County. Two of them were activated as alerts, and sent across the state to law enforcement, new outlets, hospitals, thruway toll booths, airports, bus terminals and border crossings.

One of those alerts originated in Gates. On May 23rd, 2012, Reynold Hanson, 77, got hold of the family car keys and drove away from home. Hanson has Alzheimer's and had wandered before. Officer Lance Duffy says they took a police report at 3 p.m. and knew almost immediately, the case met the criteria for statewide alert.

"Once you're in a vehicle, that's a pretty scary situation," says Officer Duffy. "He could be in any state in America, if you don't locate him immediately."

At 11 p.m. that night, Hanson was found at a gas station one hour away in Tonawanda. Duffy says the law is working, and the state agency that oversees the alert system agrees.

The state's Missing Persons Clearinghouse is working to speed up notification.

"You never know what would have happened if someone wasn't located but certainly there's a significant risk that those who were located safely would have into harm or would have died," says Mike Green, head of the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Should she get disoriented or lost, Donna Wrobbel wears a Medic Alert Bracelet. It contains a phone number she can call for help and all the things first responders need to know if they find her, including the fact she is memory-impaired. For now, she's confident she's doing all she can to address the threat of wandering, but she's not taking any chances.

For a step by step guide on what to do if your loved one is missing, click here.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips on how to deal with wandering and other safety issues.  For information, click here.

For a link to the New York State's Missing Persons Clearinghouse, click here.

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