Bill Proposing Alert for Missing Alzheimer's Patients Passes General Assembly

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - An advocate for Kentucky's growing Alzheimer's population hailed the final passage of legislation Friday aimed at alerting the public when people stricken with the memory-robbing disease are missing.

The measure would create a Golden Alert system, modeled after Amber Alerts for missing children, to spread the word when Alzheimer's patients wander off.

"If it brings one person home safely, then we've really done something wonderful," said Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, the bill's lead sponsor.

With little discussion, the House sent the bill to Gov. Steve Beshear on a 92-0 vote Friday. The measure passed the Senate last month on a 37-0 vote.

Ellen Kershaw, with the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, said the measure could be a life saver.

"This will be a great step forward in protecting the safety of people with Alzheimer's disease," she said in a phone interview.

The bill would apply to adults with such conditions as Alzheimer's or dementia.

More than 74,000 Kentuckians are stricken with Alzheimer's, and by 2010 that number is projected to reach about 80,000, Kershaw said.

Under the measure, authorities would alert local media when someone with such a condition is reported missing.

"Hopefully, with more eyes and ears looking out for the person, they can help the authorities return the person to their family," Kershaw said.

In some cases, the disappearance of an Alzheimer's victim ends tragically.

Last December, a 76-year-old woman suffering from the disease was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking along a road in Bowling Green.

The woman had wandered off sometime after midnight and was struck at about 3:50 a.m., said Officer Barry Pruitt, a spokesman for Bowling Green police.

Police believe she was struck twice, he said. No arrests have been made.

Pruitt said the alert system could help authorities track down Alzheimer's patients, who can cover quite a bit of ground before being reported missing. He said the first few hours are crucial in trying to find someone before they are harmed.

"Anything we can do to assist in their safe return is certainly worthwhile," he said in a phone interview.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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