Golden Alert bill advances to full House

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GOLDEN ALERT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ)— A House committee today approved a bill that would change how the state issues Golden Alert notifications when an impaired person goes missing.

It would be up to the Kentucky State Police to initiate a Golden Alert under House Bill 150 should the agency decide an alert is necessary for the safety of someone with a physical, mental or cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The State Police would work with both state and local agencies to issue an alert using “existing resources” such as electronic highway signs, the Amber Alert broadcast emergency response system, and electronic media, the bill states.

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Golden Alerts in Kentucky are handled currently by the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management in cooperation with local search and rescue coordinators.

HB 150, which now goes to the full House after passing the House Transportation Committee this afternoon, is sponsored by Rep. Deanna Frazier, R-Richmond and House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Ken Upchurch, R-Monticello.

The bill would “create more of a coordinated effort for those who are impaired,” said Frazier.

Frazier told the committee that she filed the legislation at the request of the family of Fred D. Warner, a 78-year-old Richmond man diagnosed with dementia who went missing in late 2016. A Golden Alert was issued for Warner two days after he disappeared, according to news reports. His body was found over a month later inside his car, which was submerged in a local creek.

“When we filed the missing person’s report with local authorities, they reassured us ‘This situation often occurs and they eventually turn up days later after they run out of gas money,’” Rick Warner, one of Fred Warner’s sons, told the panel. Meanwhile, Warner said family and friends continued searching for his father, posting fliers along the entire length of Kentucky’s I-75 corridor.

“This only reached a very small fraction of the total travelers that the overhead electric signs over I-75 would have reached, and it took days to complete,” Warner told the committee. Other resources already in place—such as electronic signs over or alongside Kentucky highways—could have reached thousands more people, he explained.

Supporting the bill was Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, who said HB 150 could improve the safety of persons with autism. He told the committee of an autistic young man living in his district who he described as “kind of a wanderer”—a trait that he said concerns the young man’s mother.

“This would be another bill that is perfect for that kind of a situation,” said Gentry.