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DOJ failing those with autism who wander off, says Schumer

At our law firm, many of our clients are parents and guardians of people with autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities, including Alzheimer’s disease. We provide advice about their legal duties to keep their children, other family members, or protected persons safe.

One challenge for many whose loved ones have these kinds of disabilities is the tendency to wander away, known as elopement, a real risk to those with autism and other kinds of developmental disabilities.

Disability Scoop reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is failing to meet its responsibilities to help protect this population as established under a 2018 federal law called Kevin and Avonte’s Law. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is concerned about the DOJ not carrying out the law’s Missing Americans Alert Program, which requires that the agency provide $2 million in grants each year through 2022 to help prevent elopement.

Congress passed Kevin and Avonte’s Law in memory of two boys who had autism and drowned after they eloped from structured programs, including one from a New York school.

The grants may go to nonprofit organizations, law enforcement and public safety agencies to distribute electronic tracking devices to families and guardians of children and adults at risk of wandering or for “education, training, notification systems and other efforts to prevent or better respond to elopement,” describes Disability Scoop. The money may also be used for communication systems designed to alert the community of individuals at risk of harm because they have eloped.

The article says that the DOJ combined the wandering grant money with another grant to establish a national center for police education on how to respond to people with mental health and intellectual disabilities. In response to Schumer’s concerns, the agency is reissuing the proper grant solicitation.

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