Reducing Injury and Death of Missing Individuals with Dementia and Developmental Disabilities
Supporting local jurisdictions’ efforts to reduce the number of deaths and injuries of individuals with forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease or developmental disabilities such as autism who, due to their condition, wander from safe environments.
About Home Safe
Thousands of American families with aging parents or developmentally disabled children cope on a daily basis with the very real fear that those family members may wander from caregivers’ supervision, sometimes with tragic results. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 60% of seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia will wander; of those, up to half will suffer serious injury or death if not found within 24 hours. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in 54 children have autism spectrum disorder and that more than half, or about 60%, were reported to wander. The specter of missing individuals exacts a significant toll on families, communities, and public resources.
To avoid these tragedies, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) provides funding to law enforcement and public safety agencies to implement technologies to track missing individuals and to develop or operate programs to prevent wandering, increase safety, and facilitate rescue. The IACP serves as the training and technical assistance provider to grantees of BJA's Reducing Injury and Death of Missing Individuals with Dementia and Developmental Disabilities Program.
The Law Behind Home Safe
In 2008, nine-year-old Kevin Curtis Wills wandered from home and drowned in Iowa’s Raccoon River. In 2014, fourteen-year-old Avonte Oquendo wandered away from his school and drowned in New York City’s East River.
Kevin and Avonte’s Law is aimed at helping families locate missing loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, Autism and related conditions. The legislation supports initiatives that reduce the risk of injury or death of individuals with developmental disabilities, who due to their condition may wander from safe environments.
Kevin and Avonte’s Law authorized BJA's Reducing Injury and Death of Missing Individuals with Dementia and Developmental Disabilities Program. This program will support local efforts to address this public safety challenge by providing grants to health care agencies, law enforcement and public safety agencies, and nonprofit organizations, that implement locative technologies to track missing individuals, and/or develop or operate programs to prevent wandering, increase individuals’ safety, and facilitate rescue. These efforts will promote education and training of caregivers to prevent wandering and provide law enforcement officers the tools they need to help recover missing loved ones.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is currently providing funding to selected sites to support the Reducing Injury and Death of Missing Individuals with Dementia and Developmental Disabilities Program. This program furthers the Department's priorities by supporting law enforcement and public safety agencies in their efforts to reduce and prevent injuries and deaths of missing individuals with dementia or developmental disabilities, such as Alzheimer's or Autism.
The sites are:
Allegheny County Project Lifesaver- The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office will partner with Project Lifesaver to locate missing participants registered in the program. Any Allegheny County resident who is a caregiver to a person who has a tendency to wander or run from his/her residence as a result of Alzheimer’s, or another form of dementia, Down’s syndrome, autism spectrum disorder or another developmental disability, or a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, may enroll the individual in the program by contacting the District Attorney’s Office.
Bringing Home the Wanderers: Search and Rescue for the Cognitively Impaired - The Harris County Sheriff’s Office will partner with Project Lifesaver International to facilitate the rapid location of wanderers by equipping them with a small transmitter that emits an individualized tracking signal. When caregivers call 911 to report the person missing, a trained group of deputies will respond to the area and use a mobile locater tracking system to find the client.
East Orange Reducing Injury and Death of Missing Individuals with Dementia and Developmental Disabilities Program - The City of East Orange Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Law and Public Safety has elected to work alongside Nassan’s Place, a local nonprofit organization devoted to providing support services, advocacy, and other resources for families affected by autism. They will also partner with Angelsense and Project Lifesaver. East Orange will educate not only first responders, but also caregivers and the public, about wandering behavior. The project includes; training for first responders, expansion of specific technology designed to assist during these search and rescue events and community engagement to raise awareness of this behavior and share information about available strategies.
Elopement Prevention, Rescue and Safety Training for Autism Spectrum Disorder - The Autism Project (TAP) with local partners will train the community on evidence-based, person-centered strategies that can be used to support individuals with ASD, intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities and many other related communication and social emotional disorders. TAP’s program will include: in-person training by TAP staff, collaborative in-person training with local agencies and partners (Autism Law Enforcement Center), online webinars, outreach, community events with hospitals, police and fire, expanded safety resources online and embedded safety information and resources in all of TAP trainings for family, care givers, community members and school personnel.
LA Found Initiative - The Los Angeles County Adult Protective Services program (administered by WDACS) has partnered with law enforcement (LASD) and will partner with Project Lifesaver to secure successful outcomes for people with impairment. The tracking bracelet is provided at no cost to the applicant. LASD is responsible for the search and rescue when people wander and can provide support to any law enforcement agency in the county.
Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Project Lifesaver Program - The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office will expand its Project Lifesaver program to locate missing persons with dementia and developmental related health issues. Project Lifesaver is an international program that provides locating services for those who are prone to wander away, specifically people with Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism, and other related diseases.
NAAs Big Red Safety Box Program - NAA will provide 6000 free boxes to families and 1000 free toolkits to schools across the U.S., which will educate caregivers, teachers, and first responders about autism-related wandering. Supplies that are contained within the free kits and consultants-contractor to act as a fulfillment center for 6000 boxes to educate families, teachers, and first responders on how to prevent and respond to autism-related wandering incidents; to provide tangible tools that help prevent injury or death related to wandering/elopement or the need for police involvement to help prevent the need for more restrictive measures; and to assist in teaching safety skills to those with autism
Proactive Program to Prevent Wandering and Elopement in Individuals with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities - Ascendigo is a comprehensive direct-service provider that will partner with local law enforcement and other advocacy groups. Services are based on a community-integration model in which individuals with autism are frequently out in the community, and not confined to a specific facility or day program. We regularly engage individuals with autism to recreate in our rural mountain communities with access to backcountry and wilderness areas. Ascendigo has worked well in the past with both local law enforcement and search and rescue.
Project Find Safe - The project, managed by the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities, will support health care agencies, law enforcement and public safety agencies, and nonprofit organizations, to develop unique prevention programs to protect the vulnerable person's right to be as independent as possible while implementing procedures in the home, school, work or other community setting. Such approaches include: prevention and response training; development of emergency protocols for school officials and first responders; efforts to ensure the safety of vulnerable individuals; and the implementation and operation of notification systems to assist in the recovery of missing individuals.
Osceola County Project Lifesaver - The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) will partner with Project Lifesaver International to provide first responders and caregivers with a program designed to protect, and when necessary, quickly locate individuals with cognitive disorders who are prone to the life-threatening behavior of wandering.
Spotsylvania County Project Lifesaver - The Spotsylvania County (SC) Sheriff’s Office will partner with Project Lifesaver to increase their already established Project Lifesaver program and enhance the range capabilities in locating the radio frequency emitted by the transmitters. Project Lifesaver is a program established to assist with locating wandering persons with Alzheimer’s and other Related Mental Dysfunction Disorders (ARMD), including Down’s syndrome and Autism.
Project to Reduce Injury and Death Related to Elder Dementia (PRIDE-D) - The goal of this program is to provide information for caregivers, medical professionals, and people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. The targeted region for PRIDE-D is 13 distinct counties in Middle Tennessee, ranging from densely urban to extremely rural. Activities within a 13-county region include: training first responders in Mental Health First Aid for Older Adults, providing workshops on wandering and Safe Return registration sites.
Wandering and Elopement Education and Training for Maryland - Pathfinders for Autism (PFA) will implement a comprehensive education and public awareness program in Maryland on the risks and strategies for wandering and elopement. PFA teaches classes for first responder agencies across Maryland. PFA will create and host regional workshops for parents and other caregivers on wandering and elopement prevention and strategies
- When They Wander or Run Away (recorded webinar)
- PFA Tips: When They Wander or Run Away
- PFA Tips: How to Interact with Police
- Promoting Positive Interactions with Law Enforcement: A Panel Discussion
Training and Technical Assistance Resources
IACP is proud to serve as the TTA for the BJA grantee sites. We will be developing the following resources and tools at no cost to you to assist with effective law enforcement responses to missing individuals with Dementia and developmental disabilities.
Need Training and Technical Assistance?
Whether or not you are a grantee of BJA funding, the IACP is dedicated to advancing the policing profession through advocacy, research, outreach, and education in order to provide for safer communities worldwide.
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For more information, please contact us at email@example.com or 1-800-the-IACP X 6844
If you are a guardian or caregiver interested in locative technology for a loved one, please reach out to your local law enforcement agency representative