It’s a province-wide alert designed to help find some of Manitoba’s most vulnerable people when they go missing, but it has yet to ever be enacted.
The Missing Persons Amendment Act, or the Silver Alert, was passed in June 2017.
Similar an Amber Alert, which police may issue when a child goes missing, the Silver Alert is meant to be used to inform the public about a missing elderly person or someone with dementia, autism or down syndrome.
Police have a checklist they go through for every missing persons case to determine whether it qualifies to issue a Silver Alert.
“The major criteria is that the person is missing, that they are vulnerable and that they have a cognitive disability,” Winnipeg Police Inspector Kelly Dennison said. “This is designed for that small minority of people who do suffer from that.”
While officers deal with hundreds of missing persons cases every single year that may appear to fit those criteria, police said it’s not always so cut and dry.
“Each one of those cases, that criteria, is evaluated every single time,” Insp. Dennison said. “It’s probably one of the most difficult decisions that I’m forced to make almost on a daily basis.”
Insp. Dennison said just because police haven’t issued a Silver Alert doesn’t mean they haven’t come close.
“It’s one of those types of calls that keeps me up at night,” he said. “After we have the meetings and we’ve gone through all of the risk factors and tried to make that decision, you’re always going home wondering ‘Is that the right call? Did I make the right call? I followed the right criteria but did I make the right decision?'”
It’s a constant battle the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba knows all too well, especially when it comes to helping families who have a loved one dealing with dementia.
“It’s a really difficult thing as family who are supporting an individual with dementia, to know when they are no longer safe or to know when they need supervision all the time,” CEO Wendy Schettler said.
According to the Society, there are more than 22,000 Manitobans living with dementia.
“Just because they haven’t had to use Silver Alert doesn’t mean that people have not gotten lost. There are people getting lost all the time,” she said.
Schettler suggests families sign their loved ones up for the MedicAlert program through the Alzheimer’s Society.
“People who have been given a diagnosis of dementia or even memory problems get a MedicAlert bracelet,” Schettler said. “What happens is it wont stop someone from getting lost but it helps them get found more quickly.”
It’s also a database police can access when an individual goes missing which could help them determine if a Silver Alert is also required.
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