OLYMPIA — Legislation signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee makes Washington the 42nd state to recognize the utility of “crowd-sourcing” to help rescue lost and vulnerable adults.
Rep. Sherry Appleton’s Silver Alert Bill (HB 1021) sets up an emergency notification process to be used when seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, as well as other developmentally disabled persons over 60, go missing. Based on experience in other states, one of the most effective methods called for in the bill is the use of electronic signs found throughout the highway system to seek the public’s help.
“This is about compassion, it’s about mercy, it’s about responsibility,” said Appleton (D-23rd, Poulsbo). A predictable aspect of Alzheimer’s and age-related dementia, she explained, is the phenomenon of “wandering.” Confused and disoriented seniors might believe they are setting off to fulfill former obligations, such as going to work, or going home when the person is already at home.
“In each of these instances,” Appleton said, “a vulnerable person leaves the safety of a home or care facility and winds up alone and lost. Right now in Washington there are 200,000 elders suffering from dementia or developmental disability. Most of them, at one point or another, will wander. These are our parents and grandparents, the people who raised us and protected us. We owe it to them to take this step that 41 states already have taken.”
As he signed Appleton’s bill into law, Gov. Inslee said, “There is no national Silver Alert system, but states that have a Silver Alert system have found that the alerts help recover missing elders faster by quickly advising the public to be on the lookout as they would for a child under an AMBER alert. I want to recognize Rep. Appleton’s dedication, advocacy and tireless pursuit of the passage of this legislation.”