Local Woman Continues Fight to Change Silver Alert Criteria - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Local Woman Continues Fight to Change Silver Alert Criteria

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KILLEEN, TX - (KCEN) –Her fight is far from over. Nora Arreaga says she’ll do anything it takes to get the Silver Alert criteria changed.

Last week her 87-year-old father, Zaragoza Rubio, went missing Wednesday night from Killeen. Nora pleaded with police to get a silver alert issued because he had started to show signs of dementia. He’s over 65-years-old, medication dependent, and showing symptoms of a mental impairment. She thought it would be simple, but her requests for the additional help were denied.

“We met everything on the list except for a doctor’s documentation of some sort of the mental impairment,” Nora said. “That’s nonsense. I think that part needs to be tweaked.”

Since Nora had just started to suspect her father might be suffering from dementia, he hadn’t been formally diagnosed, therefore it wasn’t on paper, and a silver alert could not be issued for the added publicity of his disappearance.

Without a doubt, Nora believes it would have helped bring her father home sooner. He was found Friday afternoon, more than 180 miles away in San Angelo. “He was very disoriented. He didn’t know how he got there, or where he was,” she said. “For us it was very aggravating. You should be focused on looking for your loved ones, and not have all the red tape to cross.”

Now back at home, Nora took her father to the doctor on Monday, where it was confirmed he had dementia. If he would have had that confirmation one week earlier – a Silver Alert would have more than likely been issued.

These criteria were set by state law when the bill was passed in 2007 to implement the silver alert system in Texas. Strict guidelines like the requirement of medical documentation are specifically listed in the bill.

The opponents section of the bill states “Overuse of all kinds of alerts, whether AMBER or Silver Alerts, could reduce their effectiveness. Activating alerts too often in non-emergencies could make the public less responsive in more serious missing senior citizen or child abduction cases. Too many appeals could cause the public no longer to heed them and could dilute the effectiveness and credibility of all alert programs.”

Since it was started in 2007, DPS says there have been 472 activations of the silver alert in Texas, and 438 were found safely during an alert.

While Nora understands the importance of keeping the alert system effective, she wants the medical documentation requirement changed, possibly to let local law enforcement to use their discretion if there isn’t documentation.

“I think families know their relatives better than anyone else, and if someone is pleading to you in tears, knowing something is wrong, there should be an exception,” she said. “If it takes me contacting representatives or senators I’m willing to do that.”

We reached out to several local legislators. While many wanted time to look into the issue more in-depth before giving a full statement. Many like House Representative, Dist. 55 Elect Molly White said “it’s concerning and something I’ll be looking into.” Texas Senator Troy Fraser’s office said “we are aware of the situation and looking into it.”

And while current House Representative Ralph Sheffield is about to be replaced by White, he says “I hope the next legislature will address the very critical issue when it comes to our elderly and issuing these silver alerts”.

We also contacted the Governor’s office about the issue, but have not heard back as of Monday night.

Nora says her father was showing small signs, like forgetting simple things or repeating himself. She urges any families that might suspect a loved one of having dementia or Alzheimers to get them diagnosed by a doctor before it progresses.

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