Senate Unanimously Passes Autism, Alzheimer’s Bill Named for Iowa Boy
Grassley Co-Sponsored, Advanced Kevin and Avonte’s Law through Judiciary Committee
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate last night unanimously passed legislation to help families locate missing loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, autism and related conditions. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Charles Schumer collaborated on the legislation.
The bill, titled Kevin and Avonte’s Law, is named in honor of two boys with autism who died after wandering from safety. Nine-year-old Kevin Curtis Wills of Jefferson, Iowa, jumped into the Raccoon River and tragically drowned in 2008. Avonte Oquendo, 14, of New York City, wandered from school and drowned in the East River in 2014.
“The feeling of dread and helplessness families must feel when a loved one with Alzheimer’s or autism goes missing is unimaginable. But with the Senate’s approval of Kevin and Avonte’s Law, we are one important step closer to increasing the chances of a positive ending to many of these nightmares. This bipartisan bill applies proven community alert systems to help locate people with Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism and related disorders who may be susceptible to wandering away from safety. It also supports training for first responders and other community officials to better prevent and respond to these cases.
“By preventing similar tragedies in the future, we can honor the lives of Kevin, Avonte and others who lost their lives because a medical condition caused them to wander from safety. That’s exactly what this bill aims to do,” Grassley said.
“I want to express thanks for the help of everyone who was a part of this effort in Kevin’s honor, especially Senator Grassley. It’s been a difficult road for our family and this makes us smile when we think of Kevin,” Said Curtis Wills, father of Kevin Wills.
Kevin and Avonte’s Law would not only reauthorize the expired Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program, but it also would make changes to the program 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 that’s 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.
The bill is supported by Autism Society of Iowa, Autism Society, Autism Speaks, Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, The Arc, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Society on Aging, Autism Safety Coalition, National Autism Association, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Safe Minds, The Color of Autism Foundation, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, National Down Syndrome Society, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, Lutheran Services in America Disability Network, TACA, and ANCOR (American Network of Community Options and Resources).
Along with Grassley and Schumer, Kevin and Avonte’s Law is also cosponsored by senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
More information on Kevin and Avonte’s Law is available HERE.