A bill that would give the government the authority to utilize tracking devices for people with various forms of mental impairment is about to be voted on in the United States House of Representatives. At first glance, it may seem innocent, even helpful, but many critics say it is another form of government overreach, and another step down a slippery slope.
The bill, H.R. 4919, is otherwise known as Kevin and Avonte’s Law. It proposes to not only bring back but also expand the scope of the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program. H.R. 4919 calls for a $2 million grant program to assist healthcare agencies, state and local law enforcement agencies, and other appropriate organizations by designing and operating the government-run programs to “prevent wandering and locate missing individuals with forms of dementia.” It also includes people with developmental disabilities, such as autism, who may be prone to wandering away from caretakers.
The grants would be administered by the Department of Justice, who would utilize the money to “provide prevention and response information,” and “provide education and training” to appropriate personnel in order to “increase the safety and reduce the incidence of wandering persons, who, due to their dementia or developmental disabilities, may wander from safe environments.”
The text of the proposed bill also says the Department of Justice would award a portion of the grant money to agencies who develop and operate a locative tracking technology program for individuals with dementia or developmental disabilities. Caregivers could simply apply for the tracking devices, and the local agencies would be responsible for monitoring them. The devices would be free to consumers, and the program would be in operation from 2017 through 2021 but once set up, Congress would have the ability to reauthorize the new federal program any time after that.
From the language, it is unclear what role local and state agencies will have in administering these programs but does grant the Department of Justice authority to make these decisions if the bill is passed.