Federal Funds Now Available for Training Law Enforcement and Other Community Organizations to Prevent and Address Wandering in People with Autism

September 05, 2019

Federal Funds Now Available for Training Law Enforcement and Other Community Organizations to Prevent and Address Wandering in People with Autism

Effective immediately, state, local, and tribal public safety agencies, in addition to health care agencies and nonprofit organizations, can apply for Federal funding to train their personnel on preventing and addressing wandering behaviors in people with developmental disabilities, including autism.  The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) let a notice of funding availability (NOFA) for the “Reducing Injury and Death of Missing Individuals with Dementia and Developmental Disabilities Program” in mid August and grant applications are due to BJA via the Grants.gov portal on October 15, 2019.

Funds support implementing locative technologies to track missing individuals; and/or develop or operate programs to prevent wandering, increase individuals’ safety, and facilitate rescue. The program’s objective,  according to the notice of funding availability, is “to reduce the number of deaths and injuries of individuals with forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, or developmental disabilities, such as autism, who due to their condition wander from safe environments, by improving local jurisdictions’ capacity to prevent and respond effectively to such instances.”

Grantees who purchase, develop, or implement a locally-based tracking technology for those with dementia and/or developmental disabilities who wander from safe environments, must partner with health care agencies or other state or local public safety agencies in the design and establishment of these systems. They must also participate in and assist in any Office of Justice Programs efforts to develop standards and best practices for the use of non-invasive and non-permanent tracking devices which a guardian or parent has determined to be the least restrictive alternative to locate the individuals with dementia and/or developmental disabilities who wander.

Grantees who compete for funds for “proactive programs” are expected to achieve all or some of the following objectives:

BJA expects to make 12 awards of up to $150,000 each, for the estimated total amount of $1.8 million. The award period will likely last for 36 months, beginning early December 2019. There are a number of administrative requirements potential grantees should consider as they apply. Interested organizations may reference the following Grants.gov number assigned to the solicitation if there are questions for BJA or Grants.gov:  BJA-2019-16770.

Funds for the grant program originated from Kevin and Avonte’s Law, which passed in 2018. SafeMinds Executive Director Lisa Wiederlight fought tirelessly to advocate for support of this lifesaving bill. In December 2018, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, one of the bills two founding sponsors, stated on the floor of the U.S. Senate, “This legislation is important because research suggests that at least a third of children with autism repeatedly wander away from safety. Since 2015, we’ve seen a doubling in the number of wandering-related deaths, according to SafeMinds, a nonprofit organization that advocates for these children.”

Executive Director Wiederlight stated, “The newly-formed grant program will provide necessary training to law enforcement, schools, and other community organizations. It will save lives and encourage community collaboration and partnerships that had not existed before. Kevin and Avonte’s Law, is the beginning of services-related legislation that will affect the lives of people living with autism today. We’re thankful for the support of U.S. Senators Charles Schumer, Chuck Grassley, and Amy Klobuchar, and Congressman Chris Smith; and are hopeful for more congressional support for the autism community’s needs in the very near future.”

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