Bill proposing new Green Alert program for veterans

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Amber and Silver alerts have been proven to work nationwide, and West Virginia lawmakers are hoping to keep that streak with a new Green Alert program.

Senate Bill 289 will introduce a statewide Green Alert plan that will work almost exactly as the Silver and Amber alerts, but for veterans.

"The Green Alert plan would create a plan of action similar to an Amber Alert or Silver Alert which we have here in the state of West Virginia," said Sen. Ryan Weld of Brooke County. "But it would be for a veteran or current military member who is known to suffer from some mental or emotional behavioral issues and has gone missing."

"I think it's important because we have such a high concentration of veterans in this state and the numbers for example on veteran suicide are really alarming," said Sen. Stephen Baldwin of Greenbrier County.

Weld says that 19 percent of suicides are committed by veterans when the population of the United States of the veterans is about 1 percent.

"So it's a significant part of that, unfortunately," Weld said.

Just like an Amber or Silver Alert, if an at-risk veteran went missing, the Green Alert would get information out to the public quicker and help law enforcement create a plan on how to deal with the situation.

"You see the signs on the highways, the electronic signs, that can be changed -- lookout for this vehicle," Weld told WSAZ. "Same exact thing, the things that we see in place now for those programs would be put into place for the green alert programs."

WSAZ sat down with Air Force Veteran John Shank who says he is for the bill.

"It would be great because they've sacrificed a lot and so anything you can do to help save a life is worth having," Shank said.

"We have one of the highest rates of service per capita in the United States so I know our citizens care about them and want to do all they can to support them," Baldwin said. "So I hope this is just another way we can help our veterans, especially those who are going through a tough time."

The bill says the Secretary of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety will establish the plan and authorize the media to alert the public when an at-risk veteran goes missing.

Wisconsin was the first state to have the Green Alert and West Virginia would be the second, if implemented.

The bill is up for a second reading in the Senate on Friday.