New system allows Sheriff’s deputies to track individuals with special needs who are missing

One of the worst nightmares for families who have a loved one with a medical diagnosis of a disease that may cause them to become disoriented or confused and wander away, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a developmental disability, is the fear that he or she will do just that – an act which can result in devastating consequences. The St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department, in cooperation with the St. Charles County Department of Community Health and the Environment, is launching a new program Aug. 5 to help alleviate this fear and give families a little more peace of mind.

The Sheriff’s Department has purchased a Care Trak telemetry tracking system to find lost individuals with special needs who are wearing Care Trak wrist transmitters. The system allows deputies to track an individual wearing a wrist transmitter from one mile away on the ground and five miles from the air. The wrist transmitters are waterproof and are programmed with a unique frequency for each individual. The frequency is programmed into the tracking system to help pinpoint an individual’s location.

Starting Aug. 5, families and caregivers who want to participate in the program can contact the Department of Community Health and the Environment at (636) 949-7400 to request an application. A one-time fee of $250 submitted with the application covers the cost of the program, wrist transmitter, and wrist transmitter battery check device. To qualify for the program, an individual must be a resident of St. Charles County; have a medical diagnosis that has or may cause wandering; a 24-hour caregiver; and no access to a vehicle if able to drive.

Once the application is submitted and approved, the individual and their caregiver(s) will come into the Department of Community Health and the Environment, located at 1650 Boone’s Lick, St. Charles. The individual will be outfitted for a wrist transmitter and have their photo and other relevant information recorded for the Sheriff’s Department. Depending on the individual’s needs, the transmitter can also be worn on an ankle and there are options for types of wristbands/ankle bands. The caregiver(s) also have to commit to daily wrist transmitter battery checks, record the checks in a battery log, and bring the log into the Department of Community Health and the Environment every two months to get a new battery for the wrist transmitter and a new wristband if necessary. New batteries cost $5.50 every two months or $33 annually.

Should an individual wander away and become lost in the St. Louis Area, their caregiver(s) would call 911 and notify the dispatcher that they live in St. Charles County and that their loved one has a Care Trak wrist transmitter. The dispatcher will then get in touch with the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department. If air travel or search is necessary, the department is a partner in Metro Air Support, a coordinated effort of St. Charles County, St. Louis County and St. Louis City law enforcement to provide airborne services in the St. Louis area. Currently, 10 Sheriff’s deputies are trained to use the Care Trak system.

The Sheriff’s Department paid $5,000 for the Care Trak system, which is the first in the St. Louis area on the Missouri side. Deputy Steve Case heard about the system and brought the idea to Sheriff Tom Neer and the Department of Community Health and the Environment. Deputy Case has a son with autism, and while his son does not wander away, he understands what families and individuals who do wander away go through.

“After talking with the parents of my son’s friends and going through autism support groups, I saw how scary it is for families. This is a valuable service that the Sheriff’s Department can provide that is worth every dollar spent and then some,” said Deputy Case.

“We are proud to bring this system to St. Charles County,” said Sheriff Neer. “My wish for families and caregivers is that our deputies never have to use it, but we are ready if it is necessary. It is another tool the Sheriff’s Department has to help keep residents safe.”

For more information about the program and application process, call Shelly Reynolds in the Department of Community Health and the Environment at (636) 949-7400 or email mreynolds@sccmo.org. For more information about the Care Trak system, email Deputy Steve Case at scase@sccmo.org or visit http://www.caretrak.com/.

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