TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator James Beach and Senator Fred H. Madden Jr. that would establish an alert system that can provide rapid dissemination of information about a missing person who is vulnerable received final approval today by the Assembly.
The bill, S-2668, would require the Attorney General to establish an “MVP Emergency Alert System,” which would provide practices and protocols informing the public of a missing person who is “vulnerable,” defined as an individual with mental, intellectual, or developmental disabilities. The program would be a voluntary, cooperative effort between State and local law enforcement agencies and the media.
“The MVP Emergency Alert System is a critical first step in locating missing persons with disabilities and returning them to their families and loved ones,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington/Camden). “It will give members of the public vital information on a missing person so that they can contribute to finding the individual and bringing him or her to safety. I’m pleased this is getting the support it deserves from the Legislature. This is an important measure that will allow us to better protect some of our most vulnerable residents.”
The inspiration for this bill came from Michael Lawton, a 35-year-old man with a developmental disability from Woolwich, Gloucester County who wandered away from his group home. Michael was missing for two days before being found walking down a street by passersby.
“For some individuals with developmental disabilities, wandering away from their home is a serious safety issue,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Those who may have communication challenges are at greater risk for becoming lost or injured. This legislation will help provide families with the reassurance that all available resources are being utilized. By disseminating information more widely, we will increase the ability of the public to help and our chances of finding a missing person.”
The “MVP Emergency Alert System” is based on the State’s Amber and Silver Alert systems that disseminate information on missing children and seniors, respectively. According to the Alzheimer Foundation of America (AFA), several nearby states such as New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware have implemented similar alert plans.
The Assembly approved it by a vote of 79-0. The Senate approved it 39-0 in March. It now heads to the governor’s desk.