Kevin and Avonte’s Law, named in honor of two boys with autism who perished after wandering from safety, would also support training for caregivers to prevent and respond to instances of wandering
In 2015, six year-old Hamza Elmi of St. Cloud, who was diagnosed with autism, drowned in the Mississippi River near his home
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have introduced bipartisan legislation to help locate missing loved ones from Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and related conditions. Kevin and Avonte’s Law, named in honor of two boys with autism who perished after wandering from safety, would also support training for caregivers to prevent and respond to instances of wandering.
“Families and caregivers should have the support they need to keep their loved ones with Alzheimer’s, autism, and other developmental disabilities safe. Working to help family caregivers has been one of my priorities since joining the Senate. Our bipartisan bill will help to educate and train caregivers to prevent wandering and provide our law enforcement officers with the tools they need to help recover missing loved ones,” Klobuchar said.
The legislation, which passed the Senate by voice vote in the 114th Congress, is named in honor of two young boys diagnosed with autism who wandered away from supervised settings and drowned. One of the two, nine year-old Kevin Curtis Wills, died in 2008 after jumping into the Raccoon River near his home town of Jefferson, Iowa. The other, high school student Avonte Oquendo of Queens, New York, drowned in NYC’s East River in 2014. Six year-old Hamza Elmi of St. Cloud, Minnesota, who was also diagnosed with autism, drowned in the Mississippi River near his home in 2015.
Kevin and Avonte’s Law would reauthorize the expired Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program, and broaden it to support people with autism and other developmental disabilities. Specifically, the legislation would allow Justice Department grants to be used for state and local education and training programs to help prevent wandering and reunite caregivers with missing family members who have a condition linked to wandering.
Under the legislation, the grants can be used for the development of training and emergency protocols for school personnel, to supply first responders with additional information and resources, and for locative tracking technology programs to assist the families and caregivers of individuals who may wander from safety because of their condition. Grant funding may also be used to establish or enhance notification and communications systems for the recovery of missing children with autism.
Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Richard Burr (R-NC) are also cosponsoring this legislation.
Kevin and Avonte’s Law is supported by, among others, the Autism Society of Iowa, Autism Speaks, the National Autism Association, SafeMinds, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, ANCOR (American Network of Community Options), National Autism Society of America, the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the Color of Autism Foundation.
Klobuchar is a leader on combatting Alzheimer’s disease. In February, Klobuchar and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the bipartisan Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Act, which expands training and support services for families and caregivers of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia.