Chuck Grassley

Grassley names bill after local boy

Bill would assist in locating missing persons with autism

Staff report
Kevin and Avonte’s Law could soon give caregivers an Amber Alert-style boost in help in locating people with autism and Alzheimer’s disease who wander away.

Introduced Tuesday night by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the bill is named in honor of Kevin Curtis Wills and another boy with autism who died after their conditions caused them to wander.

In 2008, 9-year-old Wills, of Jefferson, jumped into the Raccoon River near Daubendiek Park and drowned.

The bill’s co-namesake, Avonte Oquendo, 14, wandered away from school and drowned in New York City’s East River in 2014.

The legislation would reauthorize the expired Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program, and include new provisions to support people with autism.

“We’ve all seen the heartbreaking stories of families frantically trying to locate a missing loved one whose condition caused him or her to wander off,” Grassley said Wednesday in a statement. “We’ve also seen benefits of the Amber Alert program and other notification systems to locate missing children and bring relief to families through community assistance.  

“Kevin and Avonte’s Law will use similar concepts and other technology to help locate people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia as well as children with autism spectrum disorders who may be prone to wander away from their families or caregivers.”

The bill also would make resources available to equip first responders and other community officials with training necessary to better prevent and respond to cases.

About 63,000 Iowans are living with Alzheimer’s  disease.  

More than 8,000 Iowa children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

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