The Florida legislature recently passed SB 230 – Missing Persons with Special Needs, also known as Project Leo, which will create pilot projects in certain areas of the state to provide locating technology to aid search-and-rescue efforts for persons with special needs in cases of elopement. The bill has been sent to Governor Rick Scott for his signature.
Project Leo sites will be established at Florida CARD locations at the University of Florida, University of South Florida, and Florida Atlantic University and will be available to individuals that are at risk of elopement and who live in CARD service areas including Alachua, Baker, Hamilton, Columbia, Suwannee, Hillsborough, and Palm Beach Counties.
"Wandering is a critical issue for the autism community," said Lindsay Naeder, Director Autism Response Team and Safety at Autism Speaks, “Increasing access to safety resources and education for families and first responders is critical to prevent and address these emergencies."
Project Leo will also provide locating technology to Sheriff’s offices of participating counties and will be distributed by them in conjunction with CARD. Each CARD will submit a report on the project in December at the end of each year of the 2-year project.
The Florida legislation has passed while Autism Speaks is also advocating for the U.S. Senate to support a measure that would allow the Justice Department grants to be used by law enforcement agencies and nonprofits for education and training programs to prevent wandering. The bill, known as Kevin and Avonte's Law also provides access to resources to help individuals who become separated from their caregivers. The grants will facilitate training and emergency protocols for school personnel, supply first responders with additional information and resources, and make local tracking technology programs available for individuals who may wander from safety.