Losing a child in a split second can happen to anyone but for parents of children with an intellectual or developmental disability the chances are higher and the worry greater, according to the Maine Department of Public Safety, in a news release.
“It was something we were in constant fear about,” said Maeghan Swanson, of Presque Isle, who is the mother of a 12-year-old boy with autism.
Swanson knows all too well that children with autism are known to wander or bolt which can lead them into dangerous situations.
Swanson’s concern for her child and other children with disabilities prompted her to contact representative Senator Harold “Trey” Stewart. Their conversation is what ultimately led to the creation of LD 28, An Act to Create an Alert System to Notify the Public when a Person with an Intellectual or Developmental Disability is Missing. The bill was signed into law by Governor Mills on May 25, 2021.
“I was thrilled to see the support that LD 28 garnered throughout the legislative process. It’s an example of the positive outcomes’ parents can see when they advocate for their children, as my constituent Maeghan did for hers” said Senator Stewart. “By coming together with stakeholders and the Maine Department of Public Safety we were able to address a serious gap in Maine’s emergency alert system and fix it through the bill that I sponsored. I’m confident that this legislation will protect some of Maine’s most vulnerable citizens and help to save lives in emergencies and am proud to see it go into effect.”
To increase efficiency the Department of Public Safety incorporated the new program into the state’s Silver Alert program which in 2010 was developed for missing senior citizens with cognitive impairments. The updated Silver Alert now includes both alert programs.
“This update to our Silver Alert program provides Law Enforcement and families in our State with another means to quickly disseminate information on a missing endangered person without an age limit,” said Brodie Hinckley, Director of Emergency Communications. “It is another effective tool in our toolbelt to help during these stressful situations. I want to thank Senator Stewart and Maeghan for bringing this bill forward and working with us to update the current Silver Alert program.”
Maine is now the 18th state and the only New England state to have an alert system for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to the release.
“As the mother of a special needs child, I know all too well that often mere minutes can make a difference when it comes to finding a child that has eloped or wandered” said Maeghan Swanson. “The passage of this bill provides first responders and the public with critical information that will more than likely help save the lives of children across the state. For my son and for so many others, I am so grateful to live in a state that has moved in this direction and is striving to support our special needs community.”