A bill proposal that would help integrate adults into the state’s missing persons alert system is advancing through the Wyoming House of Representatives.
The House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee approved House Bill 18 this week after hearing from Wyoming Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, and Wyoming Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne – the co-chairs of the Select Committee on Tribal Relations that sponsored the legislation.
“(We’re) trying to address the gaps in our system that (have) been really in place for far too long,” Larsen said. “(We’re) working to really identify these missing people, not just … in Fremont County, but around the state.”
Wyoming already uses the Amber Alert system to help locate missing children, but Larsen said other missing persons resources are available as well, including the Ashanti Alert, which was created “to help facilitate regional, local efforts for missing individuals who fall outside the scope of (the) Amber Alert.”
House Bill 18 puts “the provisions for the Ashanti (Alert) into our statutes,” Larsen explained, with a focus on “individuals over the age of 17, missing adults with special needs or circumstances, (and) missing adults who are endangered.”
Wyoming Office of Homeland Security director Lynn Budd referred to the proposal as a “pretty simple bill” that would “create some good work for our state.”
“Our goal is just to assist however we can in bringing those loved ones home,” she said.
Wyoming Highway Patrol representatives also expressed support for the bill, as did Kit Wendtland, special counsel for Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon.
“This is something the governor’s office supports,” Wendtland said. “We are currently in the process of implementing the new Ashanti Alert now with internal policy documents detailing how, from a local law enforcement perspective, they would submit a request to WHP, and then if it meets criteria, (the alert) would go out.”
Northern Arapaho Business Council representative Travis McNiven asked for the committee’s “favorable consideration of this bill,” which also received positive comments from Ann Clement, public policy manager from the Wyoming Alzheimer’s Association.
“About 10,000 Wyomingites … have either dementia or Alzheimer’s,” Clement said, and “about 60 percent of those with dementia will have a wandering episode.”
A representative from the American Association of Retired Persons also spoke in favor of the bill, noting that there is no associated cost, and the League of Women Voters of Wyoming said they consider the proposed legislation to be a “high priority item” that they “strongly support.”
The bill will come up for a vote two more times in the House before it is sent to the Wyoming Senate for further consideration.