Editor’s note: Four years ago, in response to the massive search and tragic death of Avonte Oquendo in New York City, NAA co-founder Lori McIlwain assisted Senator Schumer’s office in drafting legislation that would help to prevent similar cases in the future. We are so pleased to share that Kevin & Avonte’s Law has finally passed the House & Senate and has been signed by the President. The following press release was sent from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 23, 2018
Grassley, Klobuchar, Tillis, Schumer Bill to Aid Families of Missing Autism, Alzheimer’s Patients Passes Congress
WASHINGTON – Congress today passed 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, also supports training for caregivers to prevent and respond to instances of wandering. The bill, led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), was included in an omnibus government funding package, which now awaits President Trump’s signature before becoming law.
“The feeling of dread and helplessness families must experience 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 positive endings and even be prevented altogether. This bill, named for two boys – one from Jefferson, Iowa, and one from New York City, improves access to technologies that advance the search for missing children. It also expands specialized training for caregivers and first responders to help prevent wandering by vulnerable individuals. I’m grateful for all of those who worked together to get this important bill on the books to honor Kevin and Avonte and prevent future tragedies,” 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. This legislation 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,” Klobuchar said.
“I’m pleased Kevin and Avonte’s Law will become law so we can help save lives and give families a greater peace of mind. This legislation has a deep personal meaning for me, as I was a caregiver for my grandmother during her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. I want to thank Chairman Grassley for his tireless efforts to support this law that will help families and caregivers reunite with loved ones who wander and disappear. Kevin and Avonte’s Law will truly make a difference in preventing tragedies,” Tillis said.
“Making voluntary tracking devices available to vulnerable children with autism or adults with Alzheimer’s who are at risk of wandering will help put countless families at ease. After Avonte Oquendo ran away from his school and went missing, I learned just how prevalent wandering is among children with autism and other development disorders. I am proud to have continued to speak up for those who cannot and to have co-authored this important bill, which will help Avonte Oquendo’s memory live on, while helping to prevent other children and teens with autism from going missing,” Schumer said.
In addition to Senators Grassley, Klobuchar, Tillis and Schumer, the bill is also sponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).