GREEN BAY – Information about missing, at-risk adults in Wisconsin could soon be sent out through billboards and television and radio stations, similar to what are known as Amber Alerts for children.
The state Assembly unanimously passed a bill Thursday that would create a new, free alert program.
The bill has to pass the state Senate before Governor Walker could sign it. The Senate still has to hold a public hearing before it could even go up for a vote.
One local woman, through firsthand experience, believes the alert program could save lives.
“My brain had malfunctioned. I mean, literally,” recalled Claire Baeb of Green Bay.
Last June, 81-year-old Baeb and her 92-year-old husband Leo got lost while driving. Family members couldn’t find them for 36 hours.
“They were looking all over Green Bay,” said Baeb. “We weren’t in Green Bay.”
Baeb and her husband were planning to travel 75 miles from Townsend to Hobart. They ended up driving around for 800 miles, eventually law enforcement found them in West Bend.
Baeb’s husband died shortly after they were found.
“That was really hard,” said Baeb.
Baeb was diagnosed with early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease more than a year before the incident, but the symptoms of dementia didn’t converge until then.
Baeb has given up driving, but taken on a new challenge — getting Wisconsin to start a Silver Alert program.
The program would use the state’s pre-existing Crime Alert Network to quickly get out information about missing at-risk adults who may be in dangerous circumstances.
There would be specific criteria for sending out an alert, similar to the Amber Alert system, which is used to track down missing or endangered children.
“It’s always a balance with sending out missing and endangered persons alerts,” said Joe Libowsky, the coordinator of the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network.
Law enforcement would send the alert to broadcasters and outdoor advertising agencies for them to distribute.
Baeb and her two daughters testified about the bill earlier this month in Madison in front of an Assembly committee. The bill then passed the Assembly with a 97-0 vote.
A spokesman for State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, who heads the health and human services committee, says it’s still unknown whether the Senate will hold a hearing on the bill.
State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, hopes it happens.
“It’s a bill that we have to pass, so I’m going to push real hard to get it done,” said Hansen.
If the Senate does have a hearing on the bill, Baeb plans to be there again.
She says if the Silver Alert system would have been in place, she and her husband would have been found much sooner.
“Yes, I can say that right away, because it really would have helped,” said Baeb.
Thirty other states currently have some form of a Silver Alert.
The state estimates it would take $60,000 a year to run the Silver Alert program.
FOX 11 is still trying to find out exactly why the bill’s future in the Senate is unknown. Multiple attempts to talk directly to Senate leaders Friday have been unsuccessful.
The Senate plans to be in session until April.