CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A new Virginia law in the works will close a loophole for people with autism.
Right now, it’s known as House Bill 2216 in the General Assembly, but it’s fully expected to become law July 1 as the Jamile Hill Law for Justice.
Hill, 29, wandered off from her home off Bainbridge Boulevard in October. She drowned in a swampy area about a mile away.
Family friend and state Del. Cliff Hayes (D-Chesapeake) attended her memorial.
“I told him ‘Cliff we need to do something. This shouldn’t have happened.’ I said ‘This can’t happen to anyone else again.’ And he said ‘I got you 100%,'” said Shawn Eure-Wilson, Jamile’s mother.
Hayes then spearheaded the legislation. Currently, to get an Ashanti Alert, you have to show evidence of abduction, and the current Amber Alert system applies only to children with autism, not adults.
“This bill expands to include those with autism regardless of age. With Autism Spectrum Disorder, there’s a tendency to wander anyway,” said Arketa Howard, an advocate for the Autism Society of Tidewater.
“I don’t see that anyone would be against such a common sense thing for us to do,” Hayes said, and so far in the General Assembly, no one has.
The measure sailed through the House of Delegates 99-0. It’s now in the Senate, and then on to Gov. Ralph Northam — who, in his previous career as a doctor, had Jamile as a patient.
“He was actually one of Jamile’s neurologists when she was a preemie,” her mother said.
Jamile was an inspiration for those in the autism community.
“She was really passionate about public service, community service and helping children, she loved children,” said the Autism Society’s Nicole Miller. “She was such a kind-hearted person she would really do anything for anybody.”
Miller says the current law for autism Amber Alerts was targeted to minors because it was in response to several cases of children with autism wandering away from school.
Her mother says Jamile Hill’s Law for Justice will be a fitting tribute to the 29-year-old.
“Jamile is gonna be a protector forever for other people just like her,” she said.
If signed into law, the measure will take effect July 1. Eure-Wilson wants to make it to be nationwide so families will be protected even if they move out of state.