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COUNTY NEWS: Sheriff signs with Project Lifesaver to help those with cognitive disabilities


Wayne County Sheriff Deputy Trent Hankins practices using a Project Lifesaver location device that tracks individuals wearing a transmitter. The devices are worn by individuals with cognitive disabilities.

WOOSTER  The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office has recently partnered with Project Lifesaver to help locate individuals with cognitive disabilities, like memory loss, that have strayed from their place of residence.

“We are doing something proactive,” Capt. Doug Hunter of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, said in a news release. “We don’t want to wait until a tragedy occurs to implement this program.”

Project Lifesaver is operated by public safety agencies worldwide. It is designed to save the lives of individuals with conditions that make them prone to wandering away from their caregivers and putting themselves in dangerous, possibly life-threatening, situations.

The Sheriff’s Office works with civic groups and other organizations to help spread the word about the program. According to Hunter, families have already begun signing up.

“I am so grateful to Captain Hunter for initiating this program,” Christel McGee, the first person in Wayne County to register a family member for the service, said in a news release provided by Dan Starcher, public communications coordinator for the Wayne County government.

“Individuals affected by Alzheimer’s, dementia, or autism can now be monitored in case they wander off. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s almost four years ago. We have had our share of him attempting to wander away, but now we will have peace of mind with the monitored wristband he will be wearing. Our family couldn’t be happier to be the first to sign up for this wonderful service.”

The Project Lifesaver program goes beyond search and rescue operations by offering classes to first responders about cognitive disabilities and providing them with the tools they need for a safe and comfortable return of a family’s loved one.

The program includes a teaching credential certification so Sheriff’s Office personnel can educate other responders about the program and how to use the equipment effectively.

“The Sheriff’s Office will be the program administrator,” Hunter said. “We will coordinate between our dispatch center and the Wooster Ashland Regional Council of Governments (WARCOG) dispatch center. We are responsible for the system throughout Wayne County. If a person living in Wooster calls 911, or calls the Wooster Police, we need to make sure the dispatchers there are aware that the missing person is subscribed to Project Lifesaver.”

Founded in 1999 in Virginia, Project Lifesaver has an average recovery time of 30 minutes.

“According to the National Alzheimer’s Association, a person 65 years or older has a 50 percent chance of survival after they have gone missing longer than 24 hours,” Hunter said.

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