Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of a statewide alert system that will help find vulnerable adults who become lost. The "Missing Adult Alerts" system, similar to the nationwide Amber Alert program, will assist local law enforcement officials in notifying communities when a cognitively impaired New Yorker goes missing.
"The Missing Adults Alert system will help law enforcement find elderly and impaired New Yorkers who become lost and get them home safely," Governor Cuomo said. "This system has saved lives regarding missing children, and now it will provide the same assistance when it comes to finding vulnerable adults."
Adults with cognitive disorders, mental disabilities, or brain injuries can experience disorientation and confusion, which often leads to wandering. Lost adults are rarely aware of the danger they may be exposed to and are often unable to ask for help. According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 60 percent of Alzheimer sufferers will wander and 50 percent are at risk of serious harm, or even death, if not located within 24 hours.
Governor Cuomo signed a new law in July that created the notification system to provide rapid public dissemination of information regarding adults with dementia, Alzheimer's, or other cognitive impairments who go missing. The same tools the state's Missing Persons Clearinghouse and State Police use to issue an AMBER Alert to find missing children will now be activated for missing vulnerable adults. Those tools include distribution of posters, a toll-free twenty-four hour hotline, and partnerships with local broadcasters for quick dissemination of information. Anyone interested in receiving these alerts may also sign up to receive them through the NY-ALERT system at www.nyalert.gov.
Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Elizabeth Glazer said, "Each year, hundreds of adult New Yorkers wander away from home and spend hours lost, often unbeknownst to the people passing them by. This new law signed by Governor Cuomo will help our law enforcement get the word out about missing adults and empower New Yorkers to be on the lookout for people in their neighborhoods who may need police assistance."
Senator John Defrancisco said, "With this new Missing Adult Alert system, New York will be better able to protect vulnerable adults from the tragedies that can happen when they mistakenly wander away from home. Several years ago here in Syracuse, a woman with Alzheimer's left her home late at night and traveled all the way to Connecticut, placing herself in harm's way. I commend Governor Cuomo for signing the bill that enacted this program into law."
Assemblyman William Magnarelli said, "New York State today is launching an important new system to locate missing senior citizens with cognitive impairments and return them to their homes. This program should give families of vulnerable adults reassurance that the state is ready to help if a loved one should go missing. I thank Governor Cuomo for his efforts to get this program off the ground and running."
Catherine James, Coalition Co-Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Alzheimer's Association Central New York Chapter, said, "The Coalition of New York State Alzheimer's Association Chapters is thrilled that the Missing Vulnerable Adult Alert system has been established within the Division of Criminal Justice Services, and would like to thank Governor Cuomo and the Division for their leadership in implementing the new alert. As the leading advocacy and support organization for Alzheimer's disease, the Coalition has actively pursued creating this alert for many years. This system will provide greater peace of mind to the more than 330,000 New York families touched by this disease."
David L. Donovan, President New York State Broadcasters Association, said, "We applaud the creation of the Missing Vulnerable Adult program. Radio and television stations throughout New York have helped make the AMBER alert program a tremendous success. Creating a similar alert system for missing vulnerable adults will save lives. Broadcasters across the state look forward to working with law enforcement and the Missing Persons Clearinghouse to help implement this important alert program."
Colonie Police Department Chief Steven Heider, who is a member of the New York State Amber Alert Partners, representing the Association of Chiefs of Police, said, "From a police department's point of view, this change in how we treat vulnerable adults will hopefully lead to much quicker resolutions, in the ever increasing incidents of missing person. In our very mobile society there is a much greater risk that these individuals will be traveling by vehicle, which only makes the availability of the tools provided by the passage of this legislation that much more necessary for the safe return of our missing loved ones."
Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith, who is a member of the New York State Amber Alert Partners, representing the New York State Sheriffs' Association, said, "We strongly support and thank Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature for enacting this important legislation which extends the same kind of protection of the Amber Alert Program in helping us receive the assistance of the public in locating vulnerable missing adults with cognitive impairments. The law enforcement community strives to serve all of our citizens; however, it is important to provide special support for our most vulnerable populations - our youth and our vulnerable adults. This legislation allows us to provide vulnerable adults the same kind of immediate response and public alert system that we now provide to missing children."
Ninety-five percent of people who go missing because they suffer from a cognitive impairment are found within a quarter mile from their home or the place where they were last seen. New Yorkers who encounter a missing person, or believe they have identified a vehicle mentioned in a Missing Person Alert, should immediately call 911.