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Bill creating ‘Purple Alert’ for missing people with cognitive disabilities heads to governor’s desk

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Photo by SuperTalk Mississippi News

Mississippi could become one of just two states to create a special alert notification to raise public awareness about missing individuals with cognitive disabilities.

While lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate have been at odds over healthcare matters and how to fund public education in the state, there was a consensus view among both chambers that a special alert system is necessary for the most vulnerable members of society.

Both the House and Senate unanimously passed HB 873, which creates the Purple Alert as an additional means to aid the search for missing persons with special needs, such as autism and Down syndrome. The intention is to better prepare citizens and law enforcement who might approach the missing individual with cognitive disabilities.

Similar to an Amber Alert or a Silver Alert, the Purple Alert would allow local law enforcement officers to report the missing person to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation which would then send out the alert notification to police, the media, and the public to raise elevated attention on the matter.

According to Mississippi Gulf Coast parent Mika Hartman, whose son has Down syndrome, many individuals – especially children – with cognitive disabilities tend to be bolters, meaning they run without caution and can get lost. An individual with a cognitive disability has a higher likelihood of being unable to communicate that he or she is lost and is more vulnerable to being captured by someone with ill intentions.

Hartman told SuperTalk Mississippi News that having a special alert system to bring the public up to speed that someone with special needs is missing would be a major sigh of relief for the individual’s loved ones.

“Doing this Purple Alert just gives this sense of relief for families like mine in knowing that there are protections out there should we need to call for help,” Hartman said.

Gov. Tate Reeves now has the opportunity to sign HB 873 into law and have Mississippi join Florida as the only two states to have a Purple Alert system.

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