With more than a dozen people reported missing in the Santa Clarita Valley these past couple of years including a handful of those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, searchers now report having a tool that promises to stem the tide of people wandering off.
This month, county civic leaders announced the launch of an initiative called L.A. Found and, with it, the use of a tracking bracelet that would let others know where the bracelet wearer is at all times.
Officials with Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department expressed excitement over the new tracking technology that promises to help them find those suffering from autism, Alzheimer’s or dementia.
On Sept. 5, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Cynthia Banks, director of L.A. County Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services, got together to officially launch the program.
They called it: “A groundbreaking countywide initiative which aims to quickly locate individuals with autism, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease when they wander and go missing.”
At the heart of the L.A. Found initiative is the trackable bracelets that can be located using receivers carried in Sheriff’s Department helicopters and designated ground units.
Family members and caregivers of those identified in the target groups were urged to visit a website to see if they qualify for the tracking bracelet. The website is at www.LAFound.com.
At least three men, described as suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, have been reported missing in the last two years. As of Monday, the men were still missing, according to Deputy Armando Vira of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
- Joseph Donato, 81, went missing July 1. Described as “an at-risk” missing person, Donato was last seen leaving his home in Stevenson Ranch in his red 2016 Toyota Corolla, with a California license plate of 7VBK750, Deputy Kimberly Alexander wrote in a news release.
- Mohamed Tantawy, 70, was last seen on June 25, at 6 p.m., at his home on the 21600 block of Roselee Court. He suffers from Alzheimer’s and has not returned home.
- Lindsay Jones, 58, was last seen on Oct. 3, 2016, at 9:30 p.m. at the Taco Bell on 24712 Pico Canyon Road, Newhall, where he walked away from his family. He, too, was described as suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer’s.
The L.A. Found initiative was originally proposed through a motion co-authored by District 4 Supervisor Janice Hahn and Barger, who represents the 5th District. It emerged as the culmination of community input and expert recommendations through the Bringing Our Loved Ones Home Task Force.
In February, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a comprehensive set of strategies proposed by the task force, including a countywide pilot program to provide trackable bracelets to county residents.
“If you have cared for someone with dementia or autism, you know the fear of what might happen if you turn your back for just one minute,” said Hahn.
“L.A. Found will not only save lives. It will finally give caregivers some peace of mind. If someone you love goes missing, L.A. County is ready to step in and help find them.”
Wandering is a common problem associated with dementia, Alzheimer’s and autism. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 60 percent of people with dementia will wander at some point while a study by the Interactive Autism Network found that 49 percent of children with autism will engage in wandering behavior. While the vast majority of these individuals are recovered, wandering cases can end in tragedy.
“Our LASD mission is to be the eyes and ears in the sky and on the ground. This technology literally enables lost loved ones to communicate their location to us and enable us to do all we can as first responders, to bring peace, comfort and families back together again,” said McDonnell.
L.A. County has more than 177,000 residents with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a news release issued by county officials this month. There is also, according to the same release, a large population of people with autism and other developmental disorders that make them susceptible to wandering.