When a loved one wanders it can be a terrifying ordeal for families. With that in mind, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has introduced legislation to help find missing people with autism and Alzheimer's disease.
The proposed legislation was inspired, in part, by a St. Cloud boy who lost his life.
Six-year-old Hamza Elmi was autistic and nonverbal when he wandered from home in July of 2015.
There was a huge search for the boy that involved law enforcement and volunteers from the community. Sadly, his body was found in the Mississippi River in St. Cloud the next day.
Klobuchar's bill extends an existing federal program that helps locate people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, and adds new support for people with autism.
Rachel Gardner is director of the Frazier Autism Center of Excellence in Bloomington. She believes it will be helpful.
"Many of our kids with autism have significant safety awareness difficulties and don't know when to stop running," she said. "They will often wander away, they don't respond to no. And just in general have a hard time keeping themselves safe."
Gardner said wandering is a more serious issue than most people realize. "Again, many of our kids just don't know how to keep themselves safe, so many times it can be a very nightmare situation if they get out and they can't be found. They don't sometimes respond to their name if they're being called. Sometimes they don't respond to stop if somebody is telling them to stop."
Klobuchar is one of six coauthors of the bill. There is also a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
The bill reportedly has bipartisan support.