Molinaro with the small Safe Return alert button that can be
worn as a pendant, on a belt clip, or carried in a pocket
POUGHKEEPSIE – Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative has taken another step towards protecting at-risk individuals with GPS technology with the Safe Return program.
The program was introduced Thursday and will be used to assist local
families of individuals diagnosed with a developmental disability who
present a significant risk of wandering. Flanked by families in
the pilot program and county officials, Molinaro introduced Jack Mara
of Life Button 24, the company providing the device for Safe Return.
The device, about the size of a small egg, can be worn in one of four
ways; as a pendant, a wristband, on a belt clip, or in a concealed pouch.
In the pilot phase of the program, up to 20 families will receive devices to use for the next four months; the program is funded by the Dutchess County Department of Community and Family Services. Based on the families’ feedback, the program will likely be expanded in 2018 – not only for families of loved ones with special needs, but potentially for domestic violence survivors and seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. The legislature will need to provide funding for the program to expand.
County 911 Coordinator Dana Smith is thrilled that the program is being instituted.
“Over the last 10 years there have been almost 3,000 incidents of someone being lost coming through our 911 center and if there is another tool available to our 911 center staff and our first responder community to help locate that person sooner before serious danger does occur, or injury or illness, we are just grateful that we have that tool available to us,” Smith said.
Once the family sets up the desired perimeter, essentially geo-fencing the area with an invisible barrier detectable to the device, the Life Button 24 device can be used in several ways:
If the person wearing the device leaves the pre-determined geographic boundaries, a 24-hour monitoring service will send a text message to the person’s family. Within minutes, if that text message goes unanswered, the 24-hour monitoring service will immediately contact 911 dispatchers to alert them the person has gone missing.
If the person wearing the device is in distress or feels they are lost, they can press a button on the device and be connected to a live operator at a 24-hour monitoring service to put them in touch with a family member. If necessary, the operator will contact 911 or a family member on the person’s behalf.
Each device comes with a unique phone number, to which families can text the word “TEXT” and receive a text message back with a map and the location of the unit. If the device becomes lost, families can text the word “RING” to the same phone number, and the unit will ring 12 times, making it easier to find.
“The risk of wandering is a very real concern for the families of many individuals with special needs,” Molinaro said. “Through Dutchess County’s ‘Safe Return’ program, these families will have peace of mind, aware their loved ones can quickly be located and safely returned home, should they leave their sight.”