Thursday, December 31, 2009
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New law to locate missing and endangered seniors to go in effect

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[December 31, 2009]  SPRINGFIELD -- A new law takes effect Jan. 1 that beefs up the state's system to help locate elderly people who go missing in Illinois. The Endangered Missing Person Advisory program will have police agencies send out alerts when senior citizens or high-risk adults with disabilities go missing. The advisory will provide a regional system that will allow for the rapid dissemination of information regarding a missing person who is believed to be a high-risk missing person.

These new efforts are similar to an Amber Alert, which is used when children are believed to have been abducted and in danger. The Endangered Missing Person Advisory, commonly referred to as a "Silver Alert," aims to assist in locating older adults with Alzheimer's, some other form of dementia or illness by giving these endangered missing seniors high priority in reporting, investigation and public notification.

"A delayed search can result in the loss of precious time to locate a missing person," said Charles D. Johnson, director of the Illinois Department on Aging. "But starting in January, we will work to implement a system to help locate missing endangered seniors and make recommendations to help families and caregivers know what to do when an older adult with dementia or other illness goes missing."

The Illinois Department on Aging, in coordination with the Illinois State Police, will develop and implement a community outreach program to promote awareness among the state's health care facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other senior centers. The guidelines and procedures shall ensure that specific health information about the missing person is not made public through the alert or otherwise.

Unfortunately, cases of seniors wandering from home, getting disoriented or losing their way while driving are all too common. This new law will improve coordination to help locate missing seniors before they meet harm.

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The Illinois State Police will determine whether the missing person is endangered or considered high-risk. "High-risk" means a missing person whose whereabouts are not currently known and whose circumstances indicate that the person may be at risk of injury or death.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of missing loved ones," said Illinois State Police Director Jonathan Monken. "The state police will continue to work diligently with our communities, law enforcement and legislative partners to bring missing persons home and protect them from harm."

This law goes into effect Jan. 1.

For more information about program services to assist older adults in Illinois and their caregivers, call the Illinois Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 or, for hearing-impaired use only, call TTY 1-888-206-1327.

[Text from Illinois Department on Aging file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]


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