A new “Purple Alert” could be sounding off under a new bill in Florida when a person with cognitive disabilities wanders off. The House is expected to vote on the bill this week.
The bill’s sponsor, Boyton Beach Rep. Joe Casello, explained the impetus for the bill.
“This bill was inspired by the family and friends of Joshua Marshall, who tragically passed but might have survived if a bill such as this had been in place,” Casello said.
Marshall wandered off from his family home. He was unable to speak or ask for help because of cognitive disabilities. His body was later found in a retention pond.
The bill’s analysis explains that wandering can be a danger to a person with limited cognitive abilities. About 12 to 60% of individuals with a cognitive disability wander, and about 5% of wandering instances result in physical harm.
The bill (HB 79) did not face questions in its second reading Tuesday.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is required under the bill to establish the Purple Alert to help search for a missing adult who is in danger and has a mental or cognitive disability, a brain injury or another physical, mental or emotional disability.
A person with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia disorder would not qualify under the Purple Alert, but likely would qualify under the existing Silver Alert structure. A person in danger from substance abuse would also not be covered under Purple Alert.
When a Purple Alert is issued, local law enforcement agencies would broadcast information to the media and subscribers in the area where a missing adult is believed to be located.
The alert can be broadcast on lottery terminals in locations like supermarkets, convenience stores, and gas stations.
If a missing person case is opened along with the Purple Alert, message signs on state highways would be activated.
The state already has a Silver Alert, which is for older people or people with deteriorating intellectual faculties.
Senate companion legislation (SB 184) is ready for the floor in the upper chamber.