A House panel unanimously approved a measure Wednesday that would establish a “Purple Alert” system to help find missing adults with disabilities.
The House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee signed off on the bill with a 16-0 vote. Democratic Rep. Joe Casello is sponsoring the House measure (HB 79). Rep. Matt Willhite, a Wellington Democrat, is the bill’s prime cosponsor.
“I filed this legislation in the hope of saving lives,” Casello told the panel Wednesday.
“This alert would function similar to the Silver Alert, but for the subset of individuals who do not fall under the criteria of other established alert plans. As we know, the Amber Alert applies to a child who has been abducted and is in great danger. A Silver Alert must be [for individuals] 60 years or older traveling by a motor vehicle with an identified license plate.”
Specifically, the Purple Alert system covers missing adults with “a mental or cognitive disability; an intellectual disability or a developmental disability…; a brain injury; [or] another physical, mental, or emotional disability that is not related to substance abuse.”
The bill tasks the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to establish and implement the alert in coordination with other relevant state agencies. It also sets up privacy protections for a missing individual.
“To maintain the independence, privacy and dignity of a missing adult, the dissemination of sensitive health and diagnostic information will not be used unless absolutely necessary,” Casello said.
Casello told the panel that groups such as AARP, Disability Rights Florida and the Florida Developmental Disability Council are backing the bill. During questioning, Casello also told Republican Rep. Tommy Gregory, who asked about it, that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was supportive.
Gregory followed up later.
“In the discussions with FDLE, did they have any alternative proposals to achieve the same goal?” Gregory asked.
“We haven’t discussed that,” Casello replied.
Casello’s bill still has scheduled stops in the House Appropriations Committee and House Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Lori Berman is backing the Senate companion measure (SB 184). The Senate Transportation Committee and Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee both gave unanimous support to that measure. Only one more stop remains in the Senate Appropriations Committee.