Sen. Charles Schumer said Monday that $16 million would be needed to create a national alert system for locating Alzheimer's disease sufferers, who wander and risk serious injury or death.
A notification program, called the Silver Alert system, has been created in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The network is similar to the national Amber Alert system, designed to help locate abducted or missing children.
Schumer promoted a nationwide Silver Alert Monday outside a senior center in upper Manhattan with supporter Nicole Doliner of New City. Doliner's father, Hal, 80, was suffering from Alzheimer's in March 2008 when he drove away from his Port Washington home and died shortly after crashing in Sands Point.
His story has been cited for creating the alert system on Long Island.
His daughter used the tragedy to lobby the Rockland County Legislature to set up a local program.
"We have all this wonderful technology," Doliner said. "GPS and cell phones and personal devices and we all know what each other are doing every second of the day on Facebook. Why not use some of that technology for patients who need our care?"
Millions of Americans suffer from Alzheimer's. At least 55,000 people on Long Island and 250,000 in New York City have been diagnosed with the incurable neurological disorder, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Last week, Schumer announced he signed on to the National Silver Alert Act, a Republican bill with bipartisan support. The proposal, which would authorize funding, has passed the House.
The alert system would piggyback on the existing Amber Alert network.
Like the Amber Alert, a physical description of the missing person would be broadcast to law enforcement agencies across the country.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 60 percent of people afflicted with Alzheimer's wander or become lost. If not found within 24 hours, nearly 50 percent risk illness or death.
The association estimates more than 183,000 people with the disease will go missing on Long Island and New York City.
"Alzheimer's patients . . . know no boundary," Doliner said. "It doesn't matter where a person lives. People have wandered from one jurisdiction to another."