"One of the best decisions I had ever made"
- Joseph Lugo
Missing Autistic Man’s Body Found Eagle Scout Brian Gewirtz, 20, told his family he was going for a walk near his Brooklyn, New York, home on February 17, but didn’t come back, reported NBC News (4.4.15). On April 3, the body of this autistic young man was found near the shoreline of a creek at Marine Park Golf Club, only two miles from his home.
Police suspect he wandered into the golf course in mid-February and got disoriented. The freezing temperatures at the time meant hypothermia could also have contributed to his death. The day Gewirtz went missing was one of the coldest days of the year.
According to the NBC News broadcast, his family is hoping that this tragedy turns onto something positive. They hope that more resources are given to finding missing adults with disabilities.
Adults may go missing for any number of reasons, including personal choice. Since adults have the legal right to go missing under most circumstances, families of missing adults, including those with autism, may receive limited help from law enforcement agencies when they are looking for their loved ones.
Publicity is one of the best ways to find a missing adult. The more people who receive information on missing adults, the more likely someone will recognize them. Media attention to cases of missing adults also prompt policymakers to consider expanding the government’s role in helping to recover vulnerable adults who go missing.
After Gewirtz went missing, his friends and family started a search in the local community and searched the area for over a month. They also offered a $5,000 reward if he was found alive.
This is not to say that there is no help for people searching for missing adults. There are a number of systems that alert law enforcement entities and the public that adults with cognitive impairment or other disabilities are missing and may need assistance. A Silver Alert is one such system. This public notification system broadcasts information about missing people in order to aid in their recovery. The system works similarly to an Amber Alert plan. Thirty-five states plus New York City have Silver Alert systems. New York State has a Gold Alert system that is similar to existing Silver Alert programs.
However, activation criteria for Silver Alerts vary from state to state. Some states limit Silver Alerts to persons over the age of 65, who have been medically diagnosed mental disability. Other states expand Silver Alert to include all children and adults with mental or developmental disabilities.
Families need to be confident that when vulnerable adults and children go missing everything will be done to ensure their safe return and that they do not go missing again.