It was a scary scene when Randall Chesser, a seven-year-old autistic boy from Willisburg, went missing for 45 hours in September, but that incident is the inspiration for a new state bill proposal.
No Amber Alert was issued after Chesser was reported missing because he had not been abducted, and concern about the potential of a similar situation without an alert being issued has swayed some people to push for change.
State Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville has proposed a bill that would expand the search process for a missing person with developmental disabilities. Montell said news of Chesser’s ordeal sparked support for a new bill.
“That got the ball rolling, because when that happened it brought this whole issue to life,” he said. “It showed that we didn’t have a way to immediately alert folks that we were dealing with a developmental disability with this missing child, and that can make all the difference.”
Montell was contacted by Debi McMurray after she saw news reports that Chesser was missing, but no Amber Alert could be issued. McMurray inspired Montell enough that he has proposed the creation of the Chase Alert, named for McMurray’s 22-year-old autistic son, Chase.
“During that ordeal she became very concerned that there was no way to alert search and rescue and the community exactly what situation they may be encountering,” Montell said. “Any time you’re dealing with someone with a developmental disability, they’re particularly vulnerable.”
Montell said no other state has established a bill similar to the one he’s proposing, and the Council on Developmental Disabilities was able to help with the final language of the bill. An excerpt from the proposed bill states:
“A search for a missing person, who is known or reported to have a developmental disability, including, but not limited to autism, shall be immediately reported as a Chase Alert to the local emergency management director, the local search and rescue coordinator if different from the emergency management director, the department of state police and any on-duty officer in a division of emergency management.”
Noticeably absent is information regarding a waiting period before filing a report. That is because Montell has proposed there be no waiting period, in contrast to a typical missing persons report. He said a missing person with developmental disabilities could be immediately reported to authorities, who could then issue a Chase Alert.
Montell is confident in the bill’s potential to pass because it isn’t a politically-driven proposal. He said he believes Democrats and Republicans alike will support the bill if early feedback is any indication.
“I have talked with several house members and I’m getting good response,” he said. “There’s obviously nothing political about this bill, and that helps.”
He emphasized that anything can happen and he doesn’t want to be over-confident in the success of the bill, but it appears those two days in September for Chesser could bring some good out of a scary situation.