The Silver Alert system may soon be a national program, if U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has his way.
While governor, Manchin was able to get legislation passed that set up a Silver Alert system in the Mountain State for when cognitively impaired individuals of any age are reported missing.
Morgantown area residents learned about the program this past Saturday, when William Lester Campbell, 79, failed to return home after going to get gas for his car. He was found Sunday in Oakland, Md.
Manchin introduced a bill Thursday to create a nationwide Silver Alert. It is co-sponsored by Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wisc., chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and is supported by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
In an announcement released Thursday, Manchin said the bill would create a nationwide network for locating missing adults and senior citizens, one modeled after the AMBER Alert, and provide federal help to local and state law enforcement agencies.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, has a similar bill pending in the House of Representatives.
In a November update on Silver Alert initiatives, The National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities reported that 32 states either had or were instituting Silver Alert programs. The Wisconsin governor vetoed legislation there for lack of funding.
“After seeing how worthwhile this program has been in our state and other states, I believe that we should work to expand the program,” Rockefeller said.
“We must make sure that our seniors and other citizens with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive disorders get the care they need,” he added, “and the Silver Alert program could be a good service to deal with tragic circumstances when an individual is missing.”
Congressman David McKinley, R-W.Va., described West Virginia as “a true leader with this initiative,” adding, “The benefits to taking the Silver Alert program to the nation are worth considering.”
Manchin’s office said the legislation proposed Thursday does not change the systems that have already been put in place by the various states.
The bill calls for the Department of Justice to establish a national communications network to assist regional and local search efforts, and to name a Silver Alert coordinator. It also establishes minimum standards for alerts issued through the network.
Sgt. G.E. Raikes, commander of the Shinnston West Virginia State Police detachment, said Silver Alert is very helpful.
“Anytime we can get help from the public to locate some missing person, I think it’s a good program,” he said. “The public is a terrific asset. You can’t beat that type of alert system when it’s used correctly.”