Nov 7 2017

Yesterday, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to introduce bipartisan legislation to help families locate missing loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, autism and related conditions. Kevin and Avonte’s Law (S. 2070), 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 piece 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,” Senator Klobuchar said.
The bill, 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.
The bill 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 bill 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 bill, 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 Richard Burr (R-NC), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) are also cosponsoring this legislation.
The bill 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.
More information on Kevin and Avonte’s Law is available HERE.  Bill text can be found HERE.