- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 18, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - A proposal to create a new alert system for missing seniors aims to protect elderly Arizonans who disappear unexpectedly.

The Arizona House of Representatives Committee on Government approved Senate Bill 1097 on Monday. The bill would create a “Silver Alert” system modeled after Amber Alerts, which notify the public when a child has gone missing. The bill would require the state Department of Public Safety to coordinate emergency alerts for seniors who have gone missing and who are thought to be in danger. Local law enforcement must conduct an exhaustive search before an alert goes public.

Bill sponsor Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, said the bill was brought forward by Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels after an elderly woman went missing and was found dead weeks later. The case involves an 86-year-old woman who suffered from dementia and drove away from her St. David home in November. Griffin said the woman was spotted driving erratically on a highway but that authorities were not able to track her down. A hunter found her dead in the desert west of Picacho weeks later.

“Had this been in place and she was stopped on the interstate, she would have had a happy ending,” Griffin said. “Had this been in place we may have saved that woman.”

Rep. Martín Quezada, D-Phoenix, thanked Griffin and said the bill could have helped his own family when his grandfather went missing a few years ago.

Quezada said his grandfather went missing in Phoenix on a day the temperature reached 122 degrees, and that his family found him after he was hit by a car. He died shortly after.

“This could have extended his life a little bit longer,” Quezada said.

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