SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico implemented a new statewide Silver Alert warning system Monday to help in helping find missing people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
Similar to the Amber Alert program for abducted children, the Silver Alert system provides for emergency distribution of notices when someone 50 years or older is missing and has a cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer's.
Gov. Susana Martinez praised the new law during a news conference in Albuquerque, only hours after an alert by police in the state's largest city helped in locating a 71-year-old man who had been reported missing by his family Monday morning.
The city of Albuquerque started a Silver Alert program last year and the state law is modeled after it, Martinez said.
"A statewide Silver Alert program will protect seniors who might not be able to protect themselves," Martinez said in a statement. "New Mexico seniors suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia, and their families, can now be assured that law enforcement, and the general public, will be on the lookout should one of our loved ones go missing."
The governor's father, who died late last year, suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said, "We have heard about too many tragedies in which people with Alzheimer's disease have wandered off and lost their lives."
The Silver Alert system is among about 60 new state laws that took effect on Monday, including broader protections for the New Mexico chile industry from misleading advertising of products using out-of-state peppers.
Products deceptively using names of New Mexico towns and geographic areas, such as the village of Hatch known for its chile, must add a disclaimer on their label — "Not Grown in New Mexico" — if the peppers aren't from the state. Restaurants are to use the description "New Mexico-style" on their menus and advertisements for imported chiles used in food.
About 130 laws went into effect last month, including expansion of the state's Amber Alert system to include children abducted by a parent or other family member.
Among the laws that went into effect Monday are measures to:
— Allow guests at a bed and breakfast to be served wine and beer with food. The law creates a low-cost liquor license that can be issued to the owner or operator of a bed and breakfast, permitting guests to have up to two 12-ounce servings of beer or two six-ounce servings of wine.
— Require coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for health insurance plans for public employees and retired government workers. A 2009 law mandated coverage for autism in group health plans in private industry, but not the insurance plans for state and local government workers and educators.
— Transfer registration and chartering of corporations to the secretary of state's office from the Public Regulation Commission.
— Revamp regulation of taxis, shuttles and in-state moving companies to potentially reduce consumer costs and make it easier for some operators to expand their services into other parts of the state.
— Require school board candidates in the state's largest districts to file campaign finance disclosures with the secretary of state. The reports will show contributions to the candidate and campaign expenditures. The law covers districts with an enrollment of 12,000 or more students. Those are Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Gadsden and Gallup districts, according to 2012-2013 enrollment figures from the Public Education Department.
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