Kevin & Avonte’s Law
by Tracy E. Hill, Ph.D.
Kevin and Avonte’s Law is a bipartisan bill that was initially introduced in 2014 and passed in the spring of 2018 in memory of two boys who drowned after wandering off from school. Kevin Curtis Willis (9 years old) and 14 year old Avonte Oquendo both wandered off and were later found washed ashore in a body of water in their respective states (Iowa and New York). The bill modifies the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to reauthorize the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program and promote programs intended to minimize the risk of injury or death related to the wandering or elopement of persons with autism, other developmental disabilities or dementia.
Moreover, Kevin & Avonte’s Law authorizes a grant program in excess of $2 million, targeted at decreasing the number of injuries and deaths of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities such as Alzheimer’s and autism. The Department of Justice will provide grants to State and local law enforcement agencies, health care agencies and nonprofit organizations and public safety agencies that provide prevention and response information, training resources and referrals to guardians or families of persons who, wander from a safe environment. They will also provide education and training, including online training resources, to school personnel, first responders, mental health professionals, and clinicians in order to increase safety, facilitate rescue and recovery, and be able to recognize and respond appropriately to such individuals.
The grants will also operate, develop and enhance a notification or communications systems for alerts or dissemination of necessary information for the recovery of missing individuals with Alzheimer’s or other developmental disabilities and assist agencies in designing and operating tracking technology for individuals who have wandered from safe environments.
According to Alzheimer’s Association, six in ten people with Alzheimer’s will wander from their safe environment and become disoriented. Even those in the early stages of dementia, a person can become confused or disoriented. Warning signs can occur during any stage or type of dementia and may include:
- Forgets how to get to familiar places.
- Returns from a regular walk or drive later than usual
- Talks about former commitments, such as going to work
- Attempts to “go home,” even while at home
- Paces, is often restless or makes repetitive movements
- Has difficulty locating or remembering familiar spaces like the kitchen, bathroom or bedroom
- Inquired as to the whereabouts of friends and family, often repetitively
- May act nervous, upset or anxious in crowded areas, such as restaurants, sporting events or shopping malls.
If you think you’re loved one may have early stage dementia talk to your loved one about how they may be feeling. Additionally, there are great apps to help you track your loved one’s whereabouts. My siblings and I use Find My Friends to keep track of Mom. But there are other ones in your application store such as Life360 Find My Family. Find the one that works best for you. Not only does the application help you locate your loved one if they are lost, but it can help you know if they are out and about and not staying in one place for an extended period of time. Falling is the main cause of all fractures (95%) and the leading cause of fatal injury among older adults according to aging.com. My siblings and I use this regularly to make sure Mom is not stuck in the house for days on end. If we see she hasn’t left the house, we can call or drop by to make sure Mom is okay.
Kevin Willis and Avonte Oquendo will be remembered in our hearts and in the law.