NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Sen. Charles Schumer’s proposed “Avonte’s Law” will become reality thanks to funding from the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Justice says it will fund voluntary tracking devices for children with autism or other conditions that put them at risk for fleeing their caregivers.
Schumer announced the agreement Wednesday. It comes after the remains of autistic teenager Avonte Oquendo, 14, were found in the East River.
Schumer on Sunday called for legislation to provide GPS tracking devices for autistic children and others with a tendency to bolt from parents or caregivers.
The senator said it would be similar to a federal program that tracks seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease.
Schumer’s legislation was to have been called “Avonte’s Law.”
“It will help put parents at ease, save precious lives,” Schumer told reporters Sunday. “Avonte’s Law will allow his memory to live on while helping to prevent more children with autism from going missing.”
The senator said the Department of Justice has agreed to allow existing grant funds to be used for the voluntary devices. The justice department confirmed the agreement.
Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, said the consequences as seen in Avonte’s case can be tragic.
“There have been 42 deaths, just since 2011, from wandering,” she told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
Sensory issues, Feld said, could cause people with autism to tear off the bracelets.
“The tracking devices are one important step,” Feld said. “We need a full comprehensive strategy to address the issue of wandering.”
Avonte was last seen alive walking out of his Long Island City school on Oct. 4. That set off a massive search effort involving police and volunteers.
A funeral for the teen was held Saturday. Hundreds of people turned out.
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