Senate passes bill to protect against wandering

The U.S. Senate unanimously voted July 14 in favor of a measure to fund tracking devices for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders who are prone to wandering.

Kevin and Avonte’s Law, sponsored by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) and Chuck Grassley (R-IO) allocates $2 million in funding to the Department of Justice, to provide grants to law enforcement agencies and nonprofits that supply the devices. The funding would build on an existing program for devices for people with Alzheimer’s.

“We sincerely thank the champions of Kevin and Avonte’s law in the U.S. Senate who worked tirelessly to pass this legislation aimed at protecting individuals who may wander from safety,” said Angela Geiger, president and CEO of  Autism Speaks, in a news release. “Protecting our loved ones is a crucial issue for our community and we look forward to advocating for this legislation in the House of Representatives to fully empower communities to prevent wandering and locate loved ones who may be missing.”

Nationwide, surveys have found that as many as one-third of people with ASD have wandered from their caregivers, sometimes with deadly results.

Avonte Oquend was a 14-year-old boy who wandered from his Queens-based school in October 2013, triggering an unsuccessful, massive city-wide search. His body was not found until three months later. Kevin Curtis was a 9-year-old boy who wandered and died after jumping into an Iowa river in 2008.

The bill, introduced in March, must still pass the House of Representatives before it moves to President Obama for his signature.