Published: Jun 10, 2010 6:31 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 10, 2010 3:29 PM EDT

Project Lifesaver International, a non-profit organization that helps rescue persons prone to wandering due to Alzheimer's disease, autism, and other cognitive disorders, has been awarded grant funding to assist in education, awareness, equipment and public policy efforts to expand the Project Lifesaver program across the country.

As part of this grant funding, Lee County Sheriff's Office was awarded two free Project Lifesaver transmitters, plus a year's supply of batteries and bands for each transmitter.  The Project Lifesaver transmitters will be used to directly benefit two individuals, in the community, who have Alzheimer's disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as many as four-and-a-half million Americans currently have Alzheimer's disease. In Lee County it is estimated that over twenty-two thousand individuals have Alzheimer's.  Nearly one in eight individuals will develop Alzheimer's by age seventy-two.  Even more frightening, experts estimate that nearly sixty percent of individuals with Alzheimer's disease will wander at some point during the progression of the disease.

Project Lifesaver is a certified training program designed to assist public safety agencies in quickly finding those with cognitive conditions who wander.  Individuals wear a personalized, wrist-watch sized radio transmitter that allows first responders to rapidly locate them. Rescue personnel receive specialized training from Project Lifesaver, not only on how to operate the tracking equipment and on search and rescue procedures, but also to provide public safety personnel with skills to address the behavioral/communication challenges specific to persons with cognitive conditions - skills that are critical to gaining the missing person's trust and facilitating a safe escort home.

Nationwide, more than one-thousand law enforcement agencies are currently members of Project Lifesaver.  Founded in 1999, Project Lifesaver has been instrumental in locating, to date, more than twenty-one hundred persons in an average "find-time" of 30 minutes.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office also seeks local support from businesses and organizations wishing to match contributions from this grant.  A $300 donation will provide a free transmitter, plus a year's supply of batteries and bands, to an individual in the community who is in need of the Project Lifesaver equipment.