WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Wednesday night passed the National Silver Alert Act to help states set up systems for finding senior citizens who disappear.
The measure, originally sponsored by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, was inspired by the death this year of Mary Zelter, an 86-year-old Largo woman whose body and car were found in the Intracoastal Waterway a week after she drove away from her assisted-living facility.
The woman's daughter, Mary Lallucci, and Bilirakis were surprised that local police agencies lacked a formal mechanism for spreading the word about missing seniors.
The bill passed Wednesday would establish a national coordinator within the U.S. Justice Department to issue grants and help states set up their own Silver Alert programs.
"Today's vote is a victory in the fight to locate missing seniors," Bilirakis said in a statement.
"Passage of this bill brings Florida and other states without these life-saving systems one step closer to improving their ability to find missing seniors in the crucial few hours after they go missing."
The measure Bilirakis filed this summer was rolled into a broader bill aimed at finding missing or abducted adults.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Bilirakis and others are searching for a sponsor.