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 was signed into law today.
The law, S-2668, requires the Attorney General to establish an “MVP Emergency Alert System,” which will 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 will be a voluntary, cooperative effort between State and local law enforcement agencies and the media.
“The MVP Emergency Alert System is an important first step in locating missing persons with disabilities and returning them to their families and loved ones,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington/Camden). “This system will provide the public vital information on a missing person, which will allow those within the community to contribute to finding the individual and bringing him or her to safety. I’m pleased the governor signed this legislation, which 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 can be 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 better ensure that all available resources are being utilized. By disseminating information more widely, we will increase the ability of the public to help as well as 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’s Foundation of America (AFA), several nearby states such as New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware have implemented similar alert plans.
The Assembly approved the bill by a vote of 79-0. The Senate approved it 39-0 in March. The law takes effect on the first day of the fourth month following the date of enactment.