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Proposed Law Would Expand Alert System For Adults, Similar To AMBER Alert

in News/Legislature

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By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter

Wyoming lawmakers are contemplating a proposed law implementing the Ashanti Alert, which is a system like AMBER alert, but for adults.   

House Bill 18 would command the director of the state’s Homeland Security branch to help local and tribal police implement the Ashanti system, specifically to dispatch alerts for missing adults in risky scenarios or who are suffering from cognitive issues or disabilities.   

If it passes, the bill also would command the Wyoming Highway Patrol to use the alert system and to help the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes implement it if they wish to.   

The Highway Patrol already uses the system, according to bill proponent Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne. 

Needs To Be Permanent 

Ellis advocated for the bill’s passage Monday before the House Labor Health and Social Services Committee, which voted unanimously to advance it to the floor of the state House.   

“But our concern is permanency,” said Ellis, adding that if the system is mandated by law, it can’t come and go at the “whim of an agency.”   

Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, who co-chairs the Select Tribal Relations Committee with Ellis, also touted the Ashanti system as a possible life-saver. He noted it was developed on a federal level following the 2017 abduction and death of 19-year-old Ashanti Billie in Virginia.   

“Her body wasn’t found for two weeks – 350 miles away,” said Larsen.   

The Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 established a voluntary nationwide communication network to send alerts about missing people older than 17 who fall outside the scope of the AMBER alert system for locating missing children.   

‘Wandering Episode’  

The bill enjoyed resounding support in the committee meeting, with speakers from the office of Gov. Mark Gordon, the Northern Arapaho Business (governing) Council, the Wyoming chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the League of Women Voters and AARP urging lawmakers to support the bill.   

Ann Clement of the Wyoming Alzheimer’s Association praised the bill’s inclusion of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia as eligible alert subjects.   

She said there are 10,000 or more Wyomingites with dementia or Alzheimer’s. About 60% of people with dementia “will have a wandering episode,” she said, adding that about 5% of those make it home unharmed on their own.   

“They don’t understand dangers, they don’t recognize things we otherwise would be able to dissuade from if we’re wandering on our own,” said Clement. 

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