There is a fresh effort in Congress to secure $10 million in federal funds to provide free tracking devices to individuals with autism and other disabilities who are at risk of wandering.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he wants to draw national attention to a bill known as “Avonte’s Law,” which would establish and fund a federal program to provide electronic tracking devices to families of kids with developmental disorders who request them.
Schumer first proposed the legislation last year after the remains of 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo were discovered following a massive search. The teen, who had autism, had been missing for months after bolting from his New York City school.
The senator said he will bring Oquendo’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, to the State of the Union address Tuesday night in an effort to highlight the bill.
“In this new Congress, I am calling for my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work with me and help pass Avonte’s Law,” Schumer said. “My legislation will help Avonte Oquendo’s memory live on, while helping to prevent any more children with autism from going missing.”
Research suggests that about half of children with autism have a tendency to wander, leading many families to employ tracking devices to monitor their kids. However, the technology can be costly.
The devices, which are often attached to clothing, allow a monitoring company to pinpoint a child’s location if they go missing.
Under the proposal, $10 million would be allocated to the Department of Justice to award grants to local law enforcement agencies so that they could distribute tracking devices to families.
Already, Attorney General Eric Holder said last year that the Justice Department would allow local police departments to seek existing grant money through the agency’s Byrne program in order to distribute tracking devices to children with autism who are at risk of wandering.
However, Schumer said that Byrne funds are insufficient to provide tracking devices on a broad scale and legislation is needed to establish a dedicated funding source.
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Written by MICHELLE DIAMENT January 20, 2015