Sheriff's Office Raising Funds For Project Lifesaver

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The Gila County Sheriff's Office is seeking funding sources for Project Lifesaver, a radio direction-finding system for people with autism or Alzheimer's disease who frequently wander.

GCSO Sgt. Terry Hudgens said the sheriff's office and Tonto Rim Search and Rescue receive many calls to find Alzheimer's patients who wander off.

"The people wear a wrist watch-sized bracelet which transmits a continuous radio signal," Hudgens said. "If we implement the program, it will only cost caregivers a small monthly maintenance fee for batteries and the wristbands are replaced each month."

The wristbands which, transmit radio signals, will shorten search time to 30 minutes. The time factor could mean the difference between life and death, according to Hudgens.

Hudgens said there are approximately 100 people in northern Gila County who suffer from Alzheimer's and autism and are potential wanderers.

"In the last few years we have had a number of lost persons in this category," Hudgens said. "We failed to find two of them in time."

The initial cost for the program is $10,000 for 20 transmitter bracelets. The Mogollon Heath Alliance (MHA) has donated $1,000.

MHA's executive director, Judy Baker, said the proven effectiveness of Project Lifesaver makes it a necessary plan for the area.

"We are in full support of the program," Baker said. "We hope that other agencies, groups and organizations and the community at large will also donate to help reach the $10,000 goal."

The system is sold only to law enforcement agencies who will have the receivers and antennas to locate the lost individuals.

"(Project Lifesaver) has been in existence for four years and is used currently in 37 states," Hudgens said. "During that four years, it has been 100 percent successful, and has an average find time of 22 minutes and involved only two officers."

For more information on Project Lifesaver, contact Sgt. Terry Hudgens at (928) 595-3803.

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