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How Florida's new Purple Alert Program can help missing adults

Posted at 6:21 PM, Jul 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-05 18:21:14-04

Florida's new Purple Alert Program is helping close the gap between existing alerts to help locate people with mental or cognitive disabilities that have gone missing.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement implemented the Purple Alert Program July 1st.

It's an alert for missing adults with a mental or cognitive disability, brain injury, physical or emotional disability that may be in immediate danger or cause serious bodily harm.

Chad Brown said this program will help close the gap between existing alerts that exclude adults with these disabilities. "This goes beyond that, and so it allows law enforcement to have another tool that they can use to get information out to the public."

This is something Beverly Marshall wish she had for her son Joshua. He was a nonverbal adult with a cognitive disability. One night in 2018, he got away from his Father's home in Port St. Lucie.

"They do like to get away from their family, especially those with autism and things like that, so it's our biggest fear is that a loved one gets a way and something horrible happens.. and that's what happened with Josh," said Beverly.

Joshua was distraught and wandered off to a gas station. No one was able to help him and he was later found in a pond outside a nearby fire station.

After his accidental death, Beverly fought for three years to make sure this didn't happen to anyone else.
Once the program went live Friday, the first alert came out a few hours later.

Beverly said it was hard to see her pain and hard work come to fruition."Cause you get that mixed emotion. I was so glad and just proud and happy to see it active and knowing that we're going to save some people and then at the same time, you know, the loss of my son and knowing what that took.. became pretty difficult."

She believes the activation of the Purple Alert Program is the best way for her son's memory to live on.

"He was such a compassionate person and a very helpful person and this would be a wonderful legacy for him if our community just joined together and helped saved these people that do get away from their families," said Beverly.

Brown agrees that people being aware in their communities is the most important part. "The public is a big part of this process and so we need the public to go and sign up to get those alerts. Without the public, then the process is unsuccessful."

In order to receive these alerts via email or text message, you have to sign up for them on FDLE's website.

Law enforcement around the state are already investigating 3 Purple Alerts.