A new alert system for missing veterans has been implemented in the state of Kentucky. In this year’s 2019 Regular Session, state leaders introduced and passed a bill for green alerts — a statewide alert system for missing veterans deemed to be at risk.
Green alerts were signed into law under Senate Bill 55. After the bill passed 37-0 in the House and 100-0 in the Senate, Governor Matt Bevin signed the bill into law on March 22, 2019.
“Veterans at risk means a veteran or an active duty member of the Armed Forces, National Guard or a military reserve component of the United States who is known to have a physical or mental health condition,” the bill states. “[Mental health conditions] include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that is related to his or service.”
Owensboro Police Department Public Information Officer Andrew Boggess said the green alert differentiate from amber and golden alerts for obvious reasons — amber alerts represent minors who are missing and believed to be in danger of abduction, while golden alerts are used when someone who has a medical or cognitive disability goes missing, regardless of age — but also for deeper reasons that relate to the specifics in how emergency responders seek these individuals.
Veterans who are at risk often suffer from poor mental health, and finding those missing veterans requires an understanding of PTSD and other issues often suffered by veterans, such as alcohol and drug abuse.
When individuals with Alzheimer’s go missing, for example, and a golden alert is issued, some of the first places searched are those that hold important memories for the individual. Even though these individuals may suffer from memory loss, Boggess said they often wander back to places in their past — sometimes they may start driving in the attempt to get somewhere familiar, though they end up going the wrong way, or taking a wrong turn without realizing it.
This isn’t typically the case for missing veterans, who are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors than those who fall under the golden and amber alert categories. It takes a different type of training to understand, locate and console veterans who are deemed to be missing and at risk, Boggess said.
Last year, Wisconsin became the first state to sign the green alert bill into law. It was inspired by Corey Adams, a Milwaukee veteran who went missing and was later found deceased. The Department for Veterans’ Affairs has stated that 20 veterans a day commit suicide.
“This law is specific to veterans and provides an opportunity for law enforcement and rescue teams to focus on the issues some veterans may face,” Boggess said. “Before this, all missing veterans fell under golden alerts, if they met the criteria, but the green alert helps to widen the additional issues that can be unique to veterans.”