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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Kevin and Avonte's Law Clears Senate Judiciary Committee

The Politics of Autism discusses the problem of wandering, which has been the topic of legislation before Congress.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported S. 2070: Kevin and Avonte's Law of 2017.  Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), chair of the committee and sponsor of the bill, said:
Today, we have Kevin and Avonte’s Law of 2017, S. 2070, on the agenda. I want to thank Senators Klobuchar, Tillis, Schumer, Burr, Durbin, and Coons for their cosponsorship of this measure, which last July passed the full Senate by voice vote.

The House passed a related companion bill in December, but we ran out of time before the 114th Congress adjourned to resolve differences between the two chambers’ versions. This year, however, Congressman Smith and I introduced the same bill text in both chambers on the same day.
Our bill would update and extend a Justice Department program known as the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program. That program reportedly had a high success rate in locating missing individuals who enrolled in it.

We’ve retitled the program and changed it to support not just people with dementia but also children with developmental disabilities. It allows Justice Department grants to be used for education programs to help prevent wandering by these individuals and for technology to reunite caregivers with missing family members.

For example, because police often are the first people to respond when a child goes missing, the bill will make resources available to equip first responders with the training necessary to better prevent and respond to these cases. These activities will help save lives and conserve police resources.

The measure’s entitled “Kevin and Avonte’s Law" in honor of two young, autistic boys who wandered away from their caretakers and drowned. One of the two, Kevin Curtis Wills, jumped into Raccoon River near his hometown in Jefferson, Iowa, at the age of nine. Research suggests that up to half of autistic children wander, and those who do are strongly attracted to bodies of water, often with similarly tragic results.

We’ve received endorsement letters from the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Autism Speaks, the Autism Safety Coalition, the Arc, and the National Down Syndrome Society, among many others. I seek unanimous consent to include those in the Record.