Project Lifesaver International
January 14, 2010
Dear Member Agencies:
After receiving information from my Sheriff 11 years ago, I was able to put together a program called Project Lifesaver. The idea of this program was to protect Alzheimer’s patients who may wander and become lost by providing them with a radio tracking wristband. If they should wander, a specially trained team would respond and track the signal of the wristband on the person, recover and return them home. While the program has expanded to over 1,000 agencies internationally with over 2,000 successful rescues to date, we are experiencing difficulties raising awareness about the program and helping those who need it most.
The Project Lifesaver program saves lives and is a needed service. I believe the problem of wandering and its’ consequences are not being recognized the way they should be. Many studies and publications have been released focusing on those with cognitive conditions who wander. A myriad of other problems and diseases are currently being addressed by other organizations, causing the public to be overwhelmed by calls for help and money for numerous causes. While these calls are legitimate and should be heeded, most people do not understand the financial burden wandering places on public safety agencies, nor do they fully comprehend the heartbreak suffered by families of those loved ones who are not found safely.
Those in public safety recognize this growing problem. There are over 5 million individuals with Alzheimer’s in the U.S., and it is estimated that 60% of those individuals will wander during the progression of their disease-many of them, repeatedly. That alone is 3 million incidents of missing persons with Alzheimer’s due to wandering! Additionally, new studies are emerging that show autism may now affect 1 in 100 children, and a recent survey by the National Autism Association revealed that 92% of those parents with an autistic child feared their child would wander and become lost.
A typical search for a missing individual not on the Project Lifesaver program is approximately nine hours at $1,500 per hour-meaning one search will cost an estimated $13,500, which we know could take much longer and last days and weeks, even months or years. Add these figures together, Alzheimer’s wandering cases may cost the U.S. $40.5 trillion in one year! This burden falls on taxpayers and worse yet, 46% of those who wander will not be found in time or not found at all. However, Project Lifesaver clients are found within 30 minutes, and we maintain a 100% success rate with over 2,000 rescues.
The issue of wandering is becoming one of the most expensive and life threatening situations the U.S. is encountering, yet unless the news covers a story about a missing Alzheimer’s adult or autistic child who has wandered, it is something that is not talked about on a regular basis. When Project Lifesaver seeks financial assistance from foundations to help public safety agencies across the U.S., many times these organizations cannot grasp the enormity and seriousness of these wandering incidents and the growing problem the U.S. is facing. Massive amounts of money are being spent on extremely exhaustive searches, lives are being lost and we are offering a solution, yet foundations are not funding the program to help public safety agencies save lives and decrease the financial burden placed on all.
We need to start speaking out to our senators, delegates, congressmen, even the President! We need to let public know how these searches are affecting them, their public safety agencies, their communities and their families. We need to insist the federal government become more involved and allocate more funding into the issue. We need to ask that foundations recognize the role we are playing in protecting the public and saving taxpayer dollars with Project Lifesaver. We need to insist that all programs to recover lost persons be reviewed and a central organization be placed in oversight of them-to maintain a consistent program that is universal. There has been a constant flood of technologies emerging (GPS, cellular technology, radio frequency technology), along with other organizations and other programs. Attention needs to be paid to those programs that are beneficial versus those that are trying to make a profit. Companies are realizing this is a needed service, and offering services that may not best serve the clients, their families, or the agencies affected by them. Nor is there any control on who is actually receiving and using these devices.
I believe we have sat back long enough struggling to put something in place to address this issue, with little or no help. Now, I am dedicating myself to leading the charge to make a difference. I think it is time for all of us to come together as one and make ourselves heard!
How can we accomplish this?
- Start by contacting your legislators, local, state and federal by email, telephone, mail or all three. Make them aware of this situation and how it is affecting your agency, your friends, your pocketbook, as well as how it affects citizens and families in your community.
- Contact the heads of any foundations or organizations, especially those that issue grants on a regular basis. Call, email or write them explaining the problem and how they can help.
- Speak at local functions, organizations and/or gathering. Tell them about this problem and ask them to help at any level they can and use their communication networks to make their followers and/or members aware.
- Solicit other agencies that experience this issue, such as police departments, sheriff’s offices, EMS and fire departments, to rally with you and help carry out this call to action.
We must make others aware and show them how it will benefit everyone to join in to address this growing problem. You and I have shown we are willing to lead the charge, now we need others to help us sustain and grow our efforts nationally!
If I, or any of the Project Lifesaver staff, can help you in these efforts, please don’t hesitate to call us.
Chief Director General, CEO
Project Lifesaver International