Support Needed For Project Lifesaver

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Editor:

I'd like to introduce Project Lifesaver. It electronically tracks those at risk of wandering, specifically Alzheimer's, Downs Syndrome, autistic patients and others with diminished mental capacities. This is a nationwide program currently in use in 320 sheriff's offices, police and public safety agencies in 37 states.

Since starting, it has helped in more than 1,000 rescues. The average rescue time is 22 minutes and a success rate of 100 percent with no deaths or injuries.

As a member and past commander of Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, I view the program's statistics as phenomenal.

The TRSAR volunteers are called on searches for persons in this category at least twice a year (three in 2004). I personally have participated in more than 130 missions with this group in the past six years. All searches have been successful except for two -- both were Alzheimer's patients who just wandered off.

Project Lifesaver involves having two specialized radio receivers complete with directional antennae, headsets, filters, cables and other related electronic support equipment for the search team. The patients are equipped with small battery-operated wristband transmitters. Radio signals are tracked directly to the subject in the same manner as biologists track wildlife.

Sgt. Terry Hudgens of the Gila County Sheriff's Office took it upon himself to implement this program in our area, after identifying more than 100 potential at-risk persons in this category. One of the goals is to provide low-cost, or no-cost, service to residents.

The initial startup of Project Lifesaver is $10,000, which includes all electronic receiving equipment, 20 wristband transmitters and the necessary two-day training. Also, it will require $2,000 annually to maintain the equipment.

To date, Sgt. Hudgens has received $2,200, mostly from business and service organizations. This program is not being funded by your taxes, so there is a need for personal donations.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Mogollon Health Alliance, Attn. Judy Baker, or to Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, P.O. Box 357, Strawberry, 85544. Please indicate that the donation is for Project Lifesaver. If your business or service organization would like a personal presentation of this program, please call the Sheriff's Office.

With more than 5 million people in the U.S. afflicted with Alzheimer's -- and the number expected to triple by 2050, chances are everyone will be touched by the disease in the next several years. Please join me in supporting this worthy cause.

Jim Martin, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, Payson

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