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Feds Clarify How To Apply For Autism Tracking Devices

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A week after announcing that the federal government will pay for tracking devices for kids with autism, officials are offering more details about how families can access the technology.

Police departments nationwide will be able to make the tracking devices available to children in their communities who are at risk of wandering using money available through the Justice Department’s Byrne grant program, officials at the federal agency said.

Byrne is an existing program that law enforcement agencies routinely tap to pay for everything from crime prevention programs to officer training and equipment like police radios and lights for emergency vehicles.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that his office had determined that Byrne funding could be used for tracking devices.

“Byrne grant money can be made and will be made available for the purchase of these devices,” Holder told a U.S. Senate panel.

The commitment came in response to a request from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer. The New York Democrat was prompted to act after 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, who had autism, went missing from his New York City school in October and was recently found dead.

Now it’s starting to become clearer how communities can obtain the funds Holder referenced.

Police should go through the same process they typically utilize to seek funding from the federal Byrne program, according to Max Dworin, a spokesman for Schumer. Law enforcement agencies can request grant money to pay for tracking devices and to provide education and training related to the issue of wandering, he said.

“Police departments apply for these every year for a variety of local law enforcement projects,” Dworin said. “Now, essentially, the Department of Justice has opened up this funding for autism.”

All applications must go through law enforcement agencies, so organizations and schools should work with local police to put programs in place, Dworin said. Police departments that receive money through the federal grant will be responsible for designing and administering their local program and determining how tracking devices are distributed.

The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance approved nearly $280 million in funding through the Byrne program in 2013. It’s unclear how much money could go toward tracking devices.

Separately, Schumer has proposed federal legislation that would allocate $10 million in dedicated funds to pay for the technology. Schumer’s bill calls for devices to be made available to families wishing to monitor those with autism or other developmental disorders who are at risk for wandering.

Justice Department spokesman Kevin Lewis did not provide clarification Wednesday about whether the new opportunity through the Byrne grant program would be limited to people with autism or if funds could be requested to be used for tracking devices for individuals with other types of developmental disabilities as well.

Research indicates that about half of children with autism are prone to wandering. Electronic tracking devices can be worn as a bracelet, attached to a shoe or belt loop or even sewn into a person’s clothing. In the event that an individual goes missing, a caregiver can call the monitoring company associated with the device in order to locate the person.

Many families already utilize tracking devices, but advocates say the technology can be cost prohibitive and note that a monthly fee is often involved.

Under an existing plan, the Justice Department provides funds to pay for similar devices for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who are at risk for wandering.

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Comments (27 Responses)

  1. Marie says:

    Can you provide a link or other information to see if our state/city law enforcement agency provides this service? Is the device able to go with the child if they move to other parts of the country? These are just a few questions I would like to receive more information on. I have a grandchild that could benefit immensely from this service. I believe this is one less worry for caregivers that already have so much to handle emotionally and financially. Time is of the essence, please respond. Thank you.

  2. Becky Norris says:

    Is this available for children in Ohio. Would be interested in learning more.
    Thanks!

  3. Billie Jo Morris says:

    I have a six year old son with pdd nos and wonders off this would be so great to have!

  4. Jeannie Murphy says:

    Are they going to pay for just the device or the device and the monitoring? If there are enough in service perhaps costs will come down but that is probably unlikely once the monitoring companies know the Feds will pay.

  5. Samuel Castillo says:

    I have to teens with autism one of them is non- verbal And I would like to get two device for kids this would help so so much with these kids…..

  6. Susan says:

    Will north carolina offer this device ? My 15 yr old with autism would benefit from this

  7. Kevin says:

    You need to contact your local Sheriff’s office or city police. For example, my sheriff’s office already has a published webpage related to getting these devices. I intend on contacting them this week.

  8. Kristine Grigoli says:

    Can you provide a link on how I can get this in New Jersey for my son. I desperately need this as soon as possible. What a great idea.

  9. Donna Little says:

    What about Adults with autism who wander? Everything is ALWAYS geared to help Children. Disabled Children grow into ADULTS! I went to everyone in AZ for help. My son was 31 y/o and a known autistic wanderer was not being watched by caregivers in Tucson group home and day program owned by the same company. He wandered often to the street. They neglected him. He was hit by a truck, sustained a TBI, was in a coma, has missing teeth (40,000 in dental repair) is disfigured, and has 3 new seizures. Any help for an ADULT with Autism Wandering?

  10. Kristin says:

    Contact your local police department. They should already have someone who handles these type of tracking devices for adults with dementia/alzheimer’s. Our police department provides t-shirts (with the local chapter of autism society) that say “I have autism. If I am alone, please call 911″.

    Just because the federal money is able to be used for children with autism, does not mean that every child will be able to get one of these devices. The money is limited and, in my experience, our police department only gives them to individuals who have a history of wandering off where the police have been called multiple times (i.e. the worst cases) because of the expense. There is a difference between making federal money available for certain populations, and actually supplying the devices to those individuals.

  11. Selma reis says:

    I live in Port Chester NY and I went to the police station in town and they said they don’t know anything about it. What should I do? Thanks

  12. Andrea M. says:

    Our daughter is Autistic. If available in Ohio, I would like to be added to your mailing list. Thank you!
    My dad passed away from Alzheimer’s. I’m happy to see this device is available to caregiver’s.

  13. Yvonne Smith says:

    I believe that this move by the administration is a great one and I hope people of color and lower income communities will gravitate towards this offer.

  14. Terry says:

    We thank you for this device it is the start.

    However, instead of putting millions into a tracking device wouldn’t it more practical to create a device that alerts us when our children are a certain amount of feet from a target area (home, school, us, etc). Not sure if any parents of an autistic child brainstormed with the committee. I know it’s in the infancy stage, so I encourage this law to make room for new proposals and or
    technology as we move forward and that the tracking device is just a temporary fix until some form of alarm device can be created. I assure you that in the long run this will save the government a lot of money. If you need more insight feel free to contact me at terrysells@gmail.com

  15. Heidi Reid says:

    Heidi Reid, Please send further information on how to gain the opportunity to help me keep my son safe. There is a sense of urgency I can’t even put into words.

  16. Naomi Perez says:

    is this available in colorado, my son is 5 and I would like to know how to get this for him.

  17. Kayla says:

    I have been contacting my local law enforcement about operation life savior and the tracking devices for a year now still they say no they don’t do that I have also contacted others who say they will talk to them but nothing or never here back from them this really makes me boil there is a county not to far from me that does this but the other county has to work with them and I think it still not close enough for the other county to come in my son is 4 he has fragile x syndrome wich is like autism and he will run off from us in a heart beat if he sees something he likes or so on he doesn’t understand what he’s doing wrong and he is non verbal so he can’t tell us what he want or why he runs off I really don’t like the leash or whatever you want to call it but if it keeps my son by my side I guess it’s better than nothing it’s just the looks you get with it if anyone knows another way to contact operation life savior to get it in your county it would greatly help .

  18. carmen Irizarry says:

    Would love to see a list of states that this program will be funding. Much needed help for all families with disabled children/adults. Great start.

  19. Virginia Hernandez says:

    Hi my name is virginia and I have two sons with autismand my young one wonders of all the time also he like to run in the street if nobody is watching him so I think my son should get one I don’t care what I have to do to get proof of my sons condition thank you so much

  20. Cathy L. says:

    Has anyone received this life-saving device for autism yet? I called my local P.D. just yesterday. Dept. of Crime Prevention had not heard of this and knew nothing about it. He was going to call NYC HQ to find out.
    In the meantime, I have always at least kept a bracelet on my child with autism and phone # on it.

  21. Katie says:

    HI Hoping someone can help with a question
    I contacted my local police about this program and was told by the police LT that they had already spent their money from the bryne grant this year on terrorist related item, so there is nothing they can do. Makes no sense from the articles I’m reading

  22. Barbara says:

    Is there any law enforcement agency in Queens NY that is already offering this service?

  23. Jen Turrell says:

    I wrote to our local police dept and received this response:

    Hello Ms. Turrell,
    I am Sgt. Cory Runge and am writing this e-mail on behalf of Chief Treadway. I am the Coordinator for the Crisis Intervention Program at Flagstaff Police Department and am a good first point contact for anything relating to Policing in Flagstaff and Mental Illness or Developmental Disabilities. I have listed my information below should you want any assistance from the police department in this area. Please feel free to
    share it with friends, family, and groups you participate in if they have questions.

    First off I would like to thank you for forwarding this information on this government sponsored program. We do participate in other Byrne Grant funded projects. We participate in many outreach and training programs involving Developmental Disabilities and Mental Illness and are very concerned about the welfare of this population.

    At this time we do not have funding to support GPS Tracking devices under this Grant. I have informed our Grant Application writer of this information and we are currently waiting on the next Grant Application request to be sent out for Byrne Grants. It is expected late this spring. At that time we should know if they have a separate stream of funding or additional funds to support GPS Tracking for Autism. If they do we may put in for these funds and develop programs and policies for it. If there is additional funding we would happy to look into the addition of this tracking program.

    Unfortunately if there are no additional funds we will not be able to participate. Over the last several years federal Grant funding has decreased and the funds we receive already support other needed community projects.

    Please let me know if you have more information in reference to this or other project related to Policing and Mental Health or Developmental Disabilities and I will be happy to look into it.

    Thank, You
    Sgt. Cory C. Runge #707
    Flagstaff PD

  24. Denise says:

    Why aren’t they suggesting an alarm for all exits in the home that will sound an alarm and even make the parents or guardians bed vibrate if they are sleeping. Mount cameras outside so they can see which direction the child or adult went. And have the alarm set up to ring the local police and alert them after around 5 min’s to search for the person if their parent or guardian doesn’t call in. And this would be funded by the feds and take some of that stupid foreign aid and put it back into this country to help families who struggle with or have a handicap.

  25. Marge Amelio says:

    Does Cook County, in Chicago, have funds from this program for our children with the Bryne Grant progarm?
    Last time only certain suburbs received it, like Kane and Dupage, and Lake, not Chicago.Do we call our district police station, or Cook County Sheriff? Please respond.

  26. Heather says:

    Will this be available for my son? He is “just” severely developmentally delayed. I hope his safety is as big a concern to advocacy groups as those who have the Autism label.

  27. Mindy says:

    I have a 21 year old autistic son – Interested if available for adults with autism
    Ohio

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