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Project Lifesaver may get a reboot

By Staff | May 30, 2019

Amidst reports that the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is discontinuing a program used to help locate those with dementia and other special needs, a group of Cape Coral residents want to buy their equipment to help those in the city.

Paige Rausch and a group of Cape Coral residents, including former Cape Coral council member Dolores Bertolini, are asking the LCSO to give or sell them locator devices that they plan on discarding and bring them to the Cape, where the police department will continue its program.

Project Lifesaver was brought to the LCSO in 2006. Its mission was to use state-of-the-art technology in assisting those who care for individuals wil Alzheimer’s, autism, or Related Mental Dysfunction Disorders (ARMD) who tend to wander away from home and trigger a Silver Alert.

If the person wanders, a call to 911 by the caregiver triggers a rapid response search by a trained team. Searchers use radio frequency receivers to locate an audible transmitter signal from a program bracelet. Radio frequency tracking is reliable, practical and is proven effective. Average location time using this system is less than 30 minutes.

“It’s a way for the police to use radio frequencies to find out where people who wander are. Police can get to them a lot quicker,” Rausch said.

Unfortunately, there were only roughly 50 people enrolled and the technology had become very outdated, Rausch said. The LCSO also did not fund or manage the program, and Rausch said the LCSO does not plan to replace the project when it expires Saturday.

Rausch is urging the city or the Cape Coral Police Department to buy the bracelets from the county, and added she and other residents would be willing to buy them, if necessary, to help those in need.

The cost of the bracelet (which includes transmitter, battery and band) is $300 plus a $10 monthly maintenance fee. The battery and band must be replaced monthly and the transmitter case must be replaced periodically.

“Many of the people who need these bracelets are very old and don’t have the money to do this and, for the younger people, their parents are just trying to put food on the table,” Rausch said.

Bertolini is very familiar with this topic, having taken care of her husband, Aldo, who had dementia. She said she is willing to buy the equipment.

“I just need to know the cost and why they’re ending this. I want to bring them to our program. There are people who need this,” Bertolini said.

Enrollment in Project Lifesaver requires that the client and/or caregiver pay for the use and maintenance of the transmitter equipment and supplies. If they cannot, donations are accepted.

If a potential client and caregiver cannot pay for the cost of the equipment and maintenance fee, and donations are not available to cover the costs, the applicant is placed on a waiting list until such time that funds are available.

Bertolini said she wants to rescue the bracelets and keep them from, potentially, being disposed of.

“I don’t want 10 people deteriorating in their homes because we let them down. That would kill me. I’ve worked too hard over the last 10 years to say ‘Here comes the black cat,'” Bertolini said.

Calls to the CCPD and the LCSO were not immediately returned.