MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s estimated that half of children with autism will wander away at some point in their lives.
Many are gone long enough to cause concern. A bi-partisan bill could help bring those children home safely.
On Sunday afternoon, Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced she has partnered with Republican Sen. Charles Grassley on “Kevin and Avonte’s Law.” If passed, it would provide more training for caregivers to locate vulnerable people who wander off and go missing.
“I don’t know how he managed to get out. In a heartbeat he was gone,” said Fadumo Hassan, sister of Hamza Elmi.
It was a July night in 2015 when Hamza snuck out of his family’s home and took off on his scooter. After a day of worrying, searching and praying, Hamza’s body was found near the Mississippi River.
“It’s really hard without him. He brought so much joy and laughter. He was a happy kid who was always smiling,” said Hassan.
Hamza was a 6-year-old boy with autism who had a tendency to wander. And that’s why his family is hopeful others won’t have to go through what they went through.
“It’s pretty obvious that when there is a bracelet on a child or it’s Alzheimer’s and you know you can find them, there’s absolutely no reason not to do it,” said Sen. Klobuchar.
Standing with Fraser and the Alzheimer’s Association, Sen. Klobuchar said the $2 million bill would expand resources for law enforcement to locate vulnerable people who go missing. It would fund training for officers and families, GPS bracelets and other technology.
“That simple trip to the bathroom and suddenly your child is gone,” said Officer Rob Zink of the St. Paul Police Department.
For Officer Zink, the bill is practical and personal. He has two boys with autism. He also created the “Cops with Autism Response Program,” known as CARE. He’s optimistic that additional funding could get more families of vulnerable people involved. And in some cases, give them the means they need to keep a loved one safe.
“Some of these needs they have not had access to because they have not been able to afford them. And with this bill, hopefully this funding will take care of that,” said Officer Zink.
The bill passed the judiciary committee last month and is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. Sen. Klobuchar is hoping it passes by the end of the year.