Last week, in response to congressional interest in wandering and the safety of children on the autism spectrum, Justice Department officials said they would make funding available immediately to provide free electronic tracking devices for kids with autism who are at risk of wandering. As many as 50% of children with autism are estimated to be at risk for wandering; they can be unaware of their surroundings, attracted to potentially dangerous things such as bodies of water or trains, and unable to understand the consequences of leaving their homes, caregivers, and schools. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress that his department has existing grant money that can be used for the technology. He went on to say that police departments nationwide can begin applying for funding immediately. Local law enforcement would then use the money to pay for tracking devices to distribute to families who want them. (To read a news account, click here.)
ASNC has begun to contact statewide law enforcement organizations to partner with them in making information available to local law enforcement agencies, including police and sheriff’s departments. In North Carolina, some local law enforcement agencies already work through Project Lifesaver (where it is available) to provide these devices to families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders who are prone to wandering. Tracking devices, while not foolproof, can be helpful in locating lost children. The Autism Society of North Carolina is very interested in this, as are many of our families and local Autism Society Chapters (Please see our recent blog post on the new Safe in the Community section of our website.)
The good news is that numerous law enforcement agencies have contacted us this week, looking for more information. The Department of Justice has announced that Edward J. Byrne funding can be used to purchase tracking devices.
“Byrne funding could be used for tracking devices.” – Disability Scoop
“Byrne grant money can be made and will be made available for the purchase of these devices,” Holder told a U.S. Senate panel.” – Icare4autism.org
“…to request funding from the federal Byrne program, police should go through the same process they typically utilize. He said law enforcement agencies can apply for grant money to pay for tracking devices and to provide education and training related to the issue of wandering. 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.” – NY Daily News
Byrne funds are typically applied for on a yearly basis. Local law enforcement agencies should review this link to Bureau of Justice Assistance for more information on these grants and an application process. At this point, BJA has not put additional information on their website about changes to the grant to include autism tracking devices. ASNC recommends that law enforcement agencies, who are the only ones who can apply for these funds, contact BJA directly for more information on the Byrne grants process.
Once grants are announced, they can also typically be found through the federal government’s grants.gov website. As of this writing, the Byrne grants are not listed. The current grant listed for tracking devices is a nationwide grant to promote better understanding of the benefits of these devices, not the Byrne grant to purchase devices.
ASNC continues to monitor news and information about the availability for funds. As we get additional information, we will be posting it on our blog and through social media, as well as sending it to law enforcement agencies that have contacted us. While we are awaiting more details on funds, ASNC wants to make sure you are aware of two resources in your communities.
- Autism Resource Specialists: These are ASNC staff members who help families and community members locate resources and find strategies that help. They provide training to many groups, including first responders and law enforcement about autism and working with people on the autism spectrum. Training may be free or low-cost, depending on the availability of staff and resources. To find an Autism Resource Specialist near you, click here.
- Local Autism Society Chapters: These are places where families can get support and provide support to other families, and where law enforcement agencies can make connections with local families to share information on safety issues and learn more about community needs. To find one near you, click here.
If you have questions about public policy issues, please contact Jennifer Mahan, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, at 919-865-5068 or email@example.com.
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