A bill establishing a statewide protocol for missing seniors has advanced through a key legislative hurdle this week.
State Rep. Jeremy Faison’s Silver Alert Bill (HB119) was presented to and passed the Tennessee House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Wednesday morning with “enthusiastic support.”
According to Fran Gray with Alzheimer’s Tennessee, the bill will address the inconsistency in so-called “silver alerts” for missing seniors – particularly those with Alzheimer’s or dementia – across the state of Tennessee.
“The issue is that, across the state, we don’t have a consistent protocol, so this bill will give us a coordinated effort through the TBI, and we can work more efficiently to find wandering people and get them back hopefully unharmed,” she told The News. “It means that persons who wander or are lost have a much better chance of being recovered and reunited with their families.”
If passed, the Silver Alert Bill would task the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation with oversight, which is crucial to moving forward with statewide protocols, according to officials with Alzheimer’s Tennessee. With TBI providing education, implementation and tracking, Silver Alert will be more effective and potentially more capable of saving lives.
Creating a uniform protocol across the state will significantly strengthen the Silver Alert system and provide clear instructions for local, inter-agency and media coordination on how to respond to calls of vulnerable, missing adults who may be disoriented and incapable of finding their own way home, Alzheimer’s Tennessee stated.
This is the second time the bill has begun making its way through the General Assembly, according to Gray. She told The News advocates began working on the bill in 2020 just before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world and suspended all legislation. They essentially had to start the bill over from scratch this legislative session, she said.
“Thankfully, a lot of the people who worked on this last year were willing to continue it this year,” she told The News. Specifically, Gray said State Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) and State Rep. Rush Bricken (R-Tullahoma) were instrumental in getting the bill moving forward in the legislature again.
Gray added that she is optimistic that the bill will fully make its way through the chambers of the General Assembly and become law this year.
The bill and its companion in the Senate (SB102), introduced by State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey still face several more committee votes and a vote from the full chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly before becoming law with the governor’s signature.
In the meantime, Alzheimer’s Tennessee is hosting an online Town Hall in support of the bill at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, March 12. Anyone interested in supporting the efforts is asked to sign up to attend the event and show their support for the implementation of the statewide protocol for missing elderly individuals. Signups are located at alztennessee.org/Townhall.