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Legislation introduced creating ‘Purple Alert’ for missing people with cognitive disabilities

Mississippi Legislature Capitol
Photo by News Mississippi

A bill has been introduced in the Mississippi House of Representatives that would create a special alert notification to raise public awareness about missing individuals with cognitive disabilities.

House Bill 873, authored by Rep. Clay Mansell, R-Clinton, would establish 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 to the matter.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel. We’re just adding a color to an already existing wheel. It would go out that exact same way,” Purple Alert advocate Mika Hartman said on Good Things with Rebecca Turner. “What I would like to see us do is be able to make that as a singular alert or in combination with [other alerts], so that you could get an Amber Purple Alert or a Silver Purple Alert.”

According to 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, posing even bigger issues. An individual with a cognitive disability has a high 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.

HB 873 has been referred to the House Judiciary B committee where it will be considered.

As of now, Florida is the only state to have passed a law establishing a Purple Alert. Nonetheless, lawmakers in multiple other states are joining Mississippi in the pursuit of having everybody on the same page when one of society’s most vulnerable individuals is lost or missing.

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