ALBANY, NY (WKBW) -- Governor David A. Paterson today submitted legislation, Program Bill No. 233, that would expand New York's Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse (MECC) – which oversees the AMBER-alert system – to missing adults who either cannot assist in their own recovery or who have disappeared under circumstances that indicate that they are in imminent danger.
Under the Governor's proposal, the same system now used to disseminate missing child alerts to police agencies, broadcast networks, Thruway service areas, lottery terminals, airports and bus terminals would be deployed when adults at particular risk go missing. The bill is intended for adults who have a mental disability, cognitive disorder or physical disability that prevents them from assisting in their own recovery, as well as missing adults who have disappeared under circumstances that indicate they are in imminent danger of harm, such as those were abducted or who are suicidal.
"The first hours after someone goes missing are the most critical, and we know that prompt notification of police and the community greatly increases the chances that a missing person will be safely recovered," Governor Paterson said. "We already have a proven infrastructure in place to disseminate alerts when a child or college student disappears, and now we can extend that protection to adults at almost no cost for increased safety and protection of our loved ones."
MECC, which is part of the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), currently oversees two major alert systems – the AMBER-alerts, which are activated in cases of very recent and confirmed abductions, and the Missing Child/College Student alerts, which are utilized in other disappearances. In both cases, information is widely distributed electronically within minutes. MECC has been operated and run by DCJS since 1987.
Mary Ann Ragona, President of the Coalition of Alzheimer's Association Chapters in New York State said: "The Coalition strongly supports the passage of legislation that expands an alert system for missing vulnerable adults. Over 60 percent of persons with Alzheimer's or a related dementia will wander at some time during the disease and if not found within 24 hours have a 50 percent chance of either never being found, or being seriously injured. This bill will provide a much needed safety net for these most vulnerable individuals."
New York State would join at least eleven states that have enacted what are frequently called "Silver Alert" systems to promptly disseminate information when senior citizens who have cognitive impairments go missing. Additionally, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer last fall introduced a bill to integrate such systems nationwide. Governor Paterson's bill would not only cover individuals with cognitive impairments, but also other adults who are deemed to be at high risk because of the circumstances surrounding their disappearance.
DCJS Acting Commissioner Sean M. Byrne said: "DCJS can in a heartbeat expand its services to include vulnerable and endangered adults. In this time of budgetary cutbacks, it would be especially gratifying to offer a new and important service to the citizens of New York – and one that will cost virtually nothing while making better and fuller use of existing resources."
Governor Paterson added: "New York State already has one of the best missing child alert systems in the nation. Expanding this service makes complete sense both programmatically and economically. It is the right thing to do."
To see a copy of the bill, click here.