‘Tiffany Alert’ Proposed For Special Needs Patients

By Stephanie Lucero, CBS 11 News

Parents and advocates for people with mental disabilities are starting a campaign to expand the Amber Alert in Texas.

Tammy Kelley is helping spearhead the effort to include adults with mental, physical and developmental disabilities.

“A lot of people in the public assumed that the Amber Alert would be able to cover people with special needs” says Kelley.  “So my hopes are now, in talking with you, getting it out there, that the Amber Alert does not cover people with special needs.”

Kelley is the mother of 19-year-old Paige, who doctors didn’t expected to live beyond the age of five.  Paige has learned to walk and talk and Kelley says her daughter is learning new things, while also suffering from a number of ailments such as autism and epilepsy.

“I just assumed the laws in place would take care of her” says Kelley.

Supporters of amending the Amber Alert have launched a Facebook page in honor of 31-year-old Tiffany Demus, who was found dead last Sunday from an accidental drowning.  Demus was mentally ill and had been missing for five days.  Friends and caregivers say they tried to encourage police to initiate an Amber Alert to help find Tiffany, but her age and the circumstances didn’t fit the criteria.

“They said that they did not do them for adults” says Richard Mills, the Special Events Director at Mary’s House, a rehabilitation day care center where Demus spent her daytime hours.

Kelley, Mills and others want the Amber Alert to include people 18 and older with mental, physical and development disabilities, whose whereabouts are unknown, and who could be in danger.  They say they would also support a separate alert for this population, which they want to be called a Tiffany Alert, in honor of Tiffany Demus, whose funeral will be held Saturday.

  • Annette Thompson

    Im so suprised there is not an alert for special need ( adults) as so to speak they some times can’t speak for them selves. If I had a child like that I would think that was desciamtion.

  • garrett

    I am in 100% support of the Tiffany Alert….it is badly needed to take care of those who don’t meet the criteria of the Amber Alert…..those with special needs are all ages

  • Tom

    These people should have an alert system similar to, but not the same as the Amber Alert. Having said that, the caregivers often become just a little too complacent and don’t sound the alarm quickly enoughwhen these people go missing. Add to that, that many in law enforcement wait too long to alert their neighbors and ask for assistance when dealing with these people. Just remember one thing. If we cry wolf too many times, nobody will heed the alerts when they are used.

  • Anonymous

    I do think this is a great cause, & I my condolences go out to Tiffany & her family. However, I’m not sure if alerts for people with special needs is the answer. I have worked with this population for most of my life. I would guess that someone with special needs in the metroplex runs off almost daily. A majority of the people running off have a history of running off, have a fair amount of community awareness, & come back on their own after several hours of doing what they wanted to do. For alert to be effective, there would have to be a multitude of determining criteria before the alert could be given, such as history of elopement in the past. I’m still not sure if that is the answer. In my experience the real issue is the lack of assistance from law enforcement when someone with a disability is missing. Officers won’t even take a report unless someone has been missing for 24 hours. On the other hand, officers also don’t get involved enough when someone with a disability commits a crime, but that’s another story entirely.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, I meant that my condolences go out to Kelley and her family.

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