Project Lifesaver can help ‘bring loved ones home’

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By Correne Martin

There’s a little-known program in Crawford County that could help save someone’s life if they have a tendency to wander. It’s called Project Lifesaver, a sense of security-style system that’s been available in the county since 2010. Since then, about eight to 10 individuals—including seniors, adults with disabilities and at-risk youth—have made use of the wristwatch-like radio technology. At least one person’s system was activated and utilized in tracking them, followed by a safe return.

Jim McGrath, Crawford County social worker, said Project Lifesaver is a nationwide program that the county raised funds for in 2009. Key contributors at the time were Walmart, Crossing Rivers Health, MG&E, ADRC and others. Training took place in late 2009/early 2010 and included  the county human resources department as well as local law enforcement and emergency personnel. The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department and Prairie du Chien Police Department continue to collaborate on the project. 

The non-profit Project Lifesaver’s mission, according to the organization’s website (projectlifesaver.org) is “Bringing Loved Ones Home.” It was founded in 1999 in Chesapeake, Va.

Citizens enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear the small transmitter, similar to a hospital bracelet in design, on their wrist or ankle, and it emits an individualized frequency signal every second, according to McGrath. If an enrolled client goes missing, a caregiver notifies local law enforcement, who use antenna equipment to determine the wanderer’s location and then send trained responders to locate him or her. 

“We take referrals from family, medical providers, etc. The service is also listed in the county community resource guide,” McGrath said.

According to the project’s website, search times for missing individuals have been reduced from hours, potentially days, down to minutes. “Recovery times average 30 minutes, which is 95 percent less time than standard operations without Project Lifesaver,” the site notes.

“We ask a $15 per month fee if the family is able,” McGrath shared. “That helps cover the costs of changing batteries and straps monthly and goes toward general operations for future upgrades as they are needed. Of course, we could waive that fee if they are unable to pay it.”

When enrolling, user demographics are recorded and inputted. 

“The trend certainly is to keep people at home as long as possible. This is a method to help provide another level of security for persons who may wander and give that peace of mind so their loved ones can know they are safe,” McGrath stated. “As our population ages, there comes with it an increased need for important services like this. We encourage people to contact us if interested, even if it’s just to learn about the program.”

According to a Courier Press article from Aug. 4, 2014, a local at-risk 13-year-old client was wearing a Project Lifesaver device and was reported missing. Trained responders were able to locate the 13 year old safely, eight blocks from home, shortly after the report was made. 

To inquire about Project Lifesaver, contact Crawford County Health and Human Services at 326-0248.

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