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New Funding for Tracking Devices: What Does It Mean?

January 30, 2014

In the post below, Autism Speaks Vice President of Family Services Lisa Goring answers questions about the new announcement from Senator Schumer about funding for tracking devices for individuals with autism.

Why is Senator Schumer’s announcement about Attorney General Holder’s decision important?

After the tragic loss of Avonte Oquendo, Senator Schumer started to advocate for necessary government-funded supports to be put in place to prevent such terrible incidents from happening again. Senator Schumer announced on January 29 that the U.S. Department of Justice will immediately allow existing grant funds to be used to fund voluntary tracking devices for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. 

While locating devices are just one of many strategies families use to prevent wandering and may not work for everyone, this announcement is very exciting and a big step toward ensuring the safety of all individuals with autism.

Where will the funding come from?

The funding will be made available through the Justice Department's Byrne grant program, an existing program that law enforcement agencies use to pay for various programs, equipment, trainings, etc. A similar system is currently in place for devices for individuals with Alzheimer's. This new announcement does not mean any additional funding, it just means that the funds awarded through this grant program can now be used for tracking devices for those at risk of wandering. 

How can I get one of these devices for my child?

It is important to note that the funding from the Byrne grant program will go directly to law enforcement agencies, not directly to families. Police departments and law enforcement agencies will need to apply for funding from the Byrne program to pay for these devices, as well as education and training related to wandering. The police departments will then administer their own program and determine who will receive the tracking devices, how many will be distributed, etc. 

Families, organizations and schools should go directly to their local law enforcement agency to encourage them to apply for funding if they have not already. The devices and wandering education will come directly from that local agency.

Is the funding available in every state?

The grant funds designated for these devices are federal money so are available nationwide. 

How much funding is available?

In 2013, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance approved nearly $280 million in fuding through the Byrne program. We aren't sure how much of that money will go toward wandering-prevention education and devices. 

Where can I learn about what locating device might be best for my child?

If your child has demonstrated dangerous wandering tendencies, you may consider using a personal locating device.  There are multiple options available because no single device is appropriate for every individual with autism.  You can learn more about available devices by visiting www.AWAARE.org/trackingtechnology

What kind of costs are involved if I get a locating device?

There are many locating devices currently on the market with a wide range of costs for the devices themselves, as well as the monthly fees (if applicable). 

Where can I learn about the other options to locatingdevices?

Locating devices are just one available resource used for wandering prevention. There is a wide range of safety products, resources and strategies that can help you learn how to prevent wandering incidents and tragedies.  A great place to start learning more is our Preventing Wandering page, as well as the Safety Products section of the Autism Speaks Resource Library. Education is the key!

What else should I be doing if I am wondering about my child wandering?

The most important wandering-prevention tool is education. If your child is at-risk of wandering, it is critical to teach him or her about safety and the dangers associated with wandering and to emphasize these concepts as much and as often as possible. You should also have wandering prevention strategies in place to ensure their safety.  Visit AWAARE.org to learn how to take action in your home and community. You can also call our Autism Response Team at 888-288-4762 or email familyservices@autismspeaks.org for resources and more information.