LA County helps families keep sight of loved ones with autism, dementia

By Abner Galino

An LA County sheriff shows the tracking device that will be installed on county helicopters to track missing persons under the project “LA Found.” Looking on are LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn (5th from the left on the background) and LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. Photo by Abner Galino

THE County of Los Angeles last week launched a countywide program dubbed as “L.A. Found,” which was aimed at quickly finding persons with autism, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease whenever they wander and go missing.

The Wednesday launching of the project was led by Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, Sheriff Jim McDonnell, and Cynthia Banks, director of the L.A. County Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services Department (WDACS).

The program involves a system of electronic bracelets that can be tracked by receivers installed in L.A. Sheriff’s Department helicopters and its designated ground units.

During a short launching ceremony at the LA Sheriff Department’s helicopter launch pad, Supervisor Hahn told the media that “L.A Found” was the culmination of recommendations from experts and community stakeholders.

It formed part of an initiative called “Bringing Our Loved Ones Home (BOLOH) Task Force,” which was reportedly originally proposed through a motion authored by Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

In February 2018, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a comprehensive set of strategies proposed by the BOLOH Task Force, including a countywide pilot program to provide trackable bracelets to County residents (now known as L.A. Found).

If you have cared for someone with dementia or autism, you know the fear of what might happen if you turn your back for just one minute,” said Supervisor Hahn.

L.A. Found will not only save lives, it will finally give caregivers some peace of mind. If someone you love goes missing, L.A. County is ready to step in and help find them.”

Wandering is a common problem associated with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and autism.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 60% of people with dementia will wander at some point while a study by the Interactive Autism Network found that 49% of children with autism will engage in wandering behavior.

We want caregivers to know that the County is here for you. Through L.A. Found we are not only providing access to tracking bracelets, but collaborating with law enforcement agencies, municipalities and other partners to improve emergency coordination, while providing information and resources to support individuals caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or autism,” said Cynthia D. Banks, WDACS Director.

While the vast majority of these individuals are recovered, wandering cases can end in tragedy.

Our LASD mission is to be the eyes and ears in the sky and on the ground. This technology literally enables lost loved ones to communicate their location to us and enable us to do all we can as first responders, to bring peace, comfort and families back together again,” said Sheriff Jim McDonnell.

According to the office of Supervisor Hahn, the L.A. County has more than 177,000 residents with Alzheimer’s disease. It added that LA County also has “a large population of people with autism and other developmental disorders that make them susceptible to wandering.”

L.A. Found is a voluntary system of trackable bracelets provided by the non-profit organization Project Lifesaver.

Hahn’s office said the bracelet is not going to be under constant monitoring. It will only be monitored when a caregiver calls 911 after an individual wearing a bracelet goes missing.

As soon as help has been asked, the Sheriff’s Department Mental Evaluation Team will deploy receivers to help locate the missing person.

The Project Lifesaver bracelet uses radio frequency technology to transmit an electronic “chirping” signal to help rescuers locate the wearer.

Hahn’s office noted that “electronic handheld receivers are used to locate missing persons with the bracelets and are being used by law enforcement agencies across the country with great success.”

The designated LA County helicopters would enhance the capability of authorities to detect signals during search operations.

To qualify for the program, caregivers must first schedule a phone interview with either the Sheriff’s Department or WDACS through the website at www. LAFound.com.

A trackable bracelet cost US$325, plus shipping and handling.

There are also leasing opportunities available through Project Lifesaver.

There is currently a waiting list to be considered for a free bracelet. Those who want to placed on waiting list can call 1-833-569-7651 or email LA Found@LACOUNTY.GOV.

 

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