A bill was introduced and passed in the Senate of the 114th Congress to help families locate missing loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and related conditions.
The bipartisan legislation, called Kevin and Avonte’s Law, was introduced by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Senators Chuck Grassley (R -IA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) are cosponsoring the legislation.
The bill, 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.
“I am proud to join Senators Grassley and Klobuchar in supporting Kevin and Avonte’s Law, which would will help save lives and give families across America a greater peace of mind,” said Senator Tillis. “This legislation has a deep personal meaning for me, as I was a caregiver for my grandmother during her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. We should be moving heaven and earth to help families and caregivers reunite with loved ones who wander and disappear, and Kevin and Avonte’s Law can truly make a difference in preventing tragedies.”
“The feeling of dread and helplessness families must feel when a loved one with Alzheimer’s or autism goes missing is unimaginable. But when communities are empowered to lend a hand, these terrifying situations can have happy endings. Kevin and Avonte’s Law, named for a boy from Jefferson, Iowa and a boy from New York City, makes resources available for technologies that advance the search for missing children, along with specialized training for caregivers and first responders to help prevent wandering by vulnerable individuals,” Senator Grassley said.
“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,” SenatorKlobuchar said.
Kevin and Avonte’s Law is named in honor of two young boys diagnosed with autism who wondered from supervision and drowned. Nine year old, Kevin Cutis Wills, jumped into a river in 2008 and drowned, and high school student, Avonte Oquendo, drowned in a river in 2014.
The bill would reauthorize and broaden the expired Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program to support people with autism and other developmental disabilities. Under the bill, Justice Department grants would 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.
The grants would be used for school staff training, provide first responders with additional resources, provide tracking technology to families of wanders, and enhance notification and communications systems for the recovery of missing children with autism.
Feature photo: Avonte Oquendo