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Grassley, Klobuchar introduce bill to help find wanderers

Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced legislation Monday to extend Kevin and Avonte’s Law, which assists communities in locating individuals with autism, Alzheimer’s and related conditions that cause them to wander from safety.

The bill, which reauthorizes a 2018 law authored by Grassley, is named in honor of two boys with autism who perished after going missing, would also support training for caregivers to prevent and respond to instances of wandering.

The bill is named in honor of two young boys diagnosed with autism who wandered away from supervised settings and drowned. One of the two, 9 year-old Kevin Curtis Wills, died in 2008 in the Raccoon River near his home town of Jefferson, Iowa. The other, high school student Avonte Oquendo of Queens, New York, drowned in NYC’s East River in 2014. Six year-old Hamza Elmi of St. Cloud, Minnesota, who was also diagnosed with autism, drowned in the Mississippi River near his home in 2015.

The bill reauthorizes an alert program to help notify communities about missing individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease, autism and other developmental disabilities. It also allows 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 linked to wandering.

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