On November 2nd, Senator Grassley re-introduced Kevin and Avonte’s Law (S. 2070), which would offer resources for families and education to police departments to address wandering for individuals with IDD. ANCOR has long supported this bill, which Senator Grassley recognized in his remarks, copied fully below.
RE-INTRODUCTION OF KEVIN AND AVONTE’S LAW
November 2, 2017
Mr. President, today Senators Klobuchar, Tillis, Schumer, Durbin and I will introduce legislation to help America’s families locate missing loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease, autism or related conditions that may cause them to wander. Congressman Chris Smith will introduce a virtually identical companion bill in the House of Representatives today as well.
Our bill, which was introduced for the first time in the 114th Congress, extends an existing program that helps locate individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It also adds new support for people with autism.
We have named the legislation in honor of two boys with autism who perished because their condition caused them to wander. One of these children, nine-year-old Kevin Curtis Wills, slipped into Iowa’s Raccoon River near a park and tragically drowned in 2008. The other, 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, wandered away from his school and drowned in New York City’s East River a few years ago.
Theirs are not isolated cases. Just a few months ago, a four year-old with autism drowned in a pool after wandering away from her caretakers. We’ve all read or heard the heartbreaking stories of families frantically trying to locate a missing loved one whose condition caused him or her to wander off.
Our bill will give communities the tools they need to help locate people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia as well as children with autism spectrum disorders who wander away from their families or caregivers and into dangerous situations.
My home State of Iowa has the fifth highest Alzheimer’s death rate in America and we have about 63,000 Iowans living with the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Additionally, the CDC identified 1 in 68 children across the country as having autism spectrum disorders. In Iowa alone, about 8,000 individuals have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
This bill will make resources available to equip first responders, law enforcement officials, and other community leaders with the training and tools necessary to better prevent and respond to these cases as soon as possible. With better information sharing, communities can play a central role in reuniting autistic children and other individuals who wander with their families.
Finally, the bill will ensure that local law enforcement agencies and nonprofits that educate and train people on how to proactively prevent and locate missing individuals who wander are eligible for grants from the U.S. Department of Justice. These grants will facilitate the development of training and emergency protocols for school personnel, supply first responders with additional information and resources, and make local tracking technology programs available for 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.
I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation, which in the 114th Congress passed the Senate unanimously. The House companion bill garnered over 90 cosponsors and passed the other chamber by vote of 346 to 66 in the 114th Congress. Our bill has been endorsed 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, and the Color of Autism Foundation.