On June 20, Legislator Edward A. Rath III, R-Williamsville, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard and Leilani Pelletier from the Alzheimer’s Association, Western New York Chapter held a press conference at the Amherst Center for Senior Services to announce the implementation of the Erie County Silver Alert System. The local law, which was created to expedite search efforts for missing Alzheimer’s patients or individuals with other dementia related illnesses, was passed in November 2010.
In the event a Silver Alert is issued, the Sheriff’s Office will rapidly disseminate information regarding the missing person to all media outlets. The Alert will include this missing person’s name, age, a physical description of the individual, what they might be wearing, and the last location where the person was seen. The Alzheimer’s Association, WNY Chapter will also be notified to assist in supporting the care partners during the search and aid law enforcement as needed.
“The creation and now the implementation of the Silver Alert system in Erie County provides us in law enforcement with another tool to help save lives,” said Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard. “We will now be able to work in tandem with other local law enforcement agencies and the media in alerting the public of a missing senior, as time is of the essence when it comes to bringing these vulnerable citizens home to avert a tragedy.”
All residents of Erie County should call 911 immediately if they believe that someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another related form of dementia is missing. Erie County has an estimated 32,000 residents with dementia, and at some point 60 percent (or more than 19,000 people) will wander from their homes or become lost.
“When a person with dementia goes missing, it is a highly emotional time for everyone involved especially the families,” explains Leilani Joven Pelletier, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association, Western New York Chapter. “We’re pleased the Silver Alert System is now active so that there is a standard protocol in Erie County for when someone with dementia is reported missing. The minute you realize your loved one with dementia is missing, call 911. Do not wait.”
Silver Alert programs are enacted across the United States but Erie County is only the fifth county in New York to pass such legislation. Erie and Niagara Counties are the only upstate counties to have a Silver Alert System in place.
Legislator Rath was the sponsor of the law that was unanimously approved by the Erie County Legislature. Legislator Rath began pushing for the creation of a local Silver Alert System last summer following the report of a missing Amherst man who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, that man was located unharmed and Legislator Rath was determined to do everything he could to create a system that greatly increases the odds of finding a missing person before they suffer serious injury or death.
“The implementation of the Erie County Silver Alert System is extremely important to our region which has a high rate of residents with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia,” said Legislator Rath. “By employing this system, we organize the efforts of law enforcement and media outlets to ensure rapid response in the event that a person with dementia is reported missing. My hope is that every county in New York State will follow our lead and adopt its own Silver Alert Law and protect its vulnerable residents.”
For information about Alzheimer’s disease or for assistance, please contact the Alzheimer’s Association at 1-800-272-3900.