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A tracking bracelet, to help find him if he wanders off and gets lost, is seen on Alzheimer’s sufferer Robert Melnick, at his home in Hainesport, N.J., Wednesday, April 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Pledging to dramatically improve coordination among authorities when people with dementia or autism go missing, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has green-lighted a program offering trackable bracelets to individuals prone to wandering.

  • Supervisor Janice Hahn examines a Project Lifesaver bracelet used by the Glendale Police Department to locate people with memory-loss who wander. Courtesy photo.

    Supervisor Janice Hahn examines a Project Lifesaver bracelet used by the Glendale Police Department to locate people with memory-loss who wander. Courtesy photo.

  • Alex Perenishko (Detective/Narcotics/Vice) Monrovia Police officer demonstrating “Project Lifesaver”, using a directional attenna in Monrovia to find a particular person, that is wearing a wristband that emits a tracking signal. The Monrovia Police Department has implemented a new strategy for quickly locating missing community members who suffer from Alzheimer’s or related disorders, dementia, Down’s Syndrome and Autism. Monrovia is the first agency in Southern California to implement Project Lifesaver. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Walt Mancini/SXCity)

    Alex Perenishko (Detective/Narcotics/Vice) Monrovia Police officer demonstrating “Project Lifesaver”, using a directional attenna in Monrovia to find a particular person, that is wearing a wristband that emits a tracking signal. The Monrovia Police Department has implemented a new strategy for quickly locating missing community members who suffer from Alzheimer’s or related disorders, dementia, Down’s Syndrome and Autism. Monrovia is the first agency in Southern California to implement Project Lifesaver. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Walt Mancini/SXCity)

  • 7-6-05-14 TRACKING#2

  • Alex Perenishko (Detective/Narcotics/Vice) Monrovia Police officer demonstrating “Project Lifesaver”, using a directional attenna in Monrovia to find a particular person that is wearing a wristband that emits a tracking signal. The Monrovia Police Department has implemented a new strategy for quickly locating missing community members who suffer from Alzheimer’s or related disorders, dementia, Down’s Syndrome and Autism. Monrovia is the first agency in Southern California to implement Project Lifesaver. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Walt Mancini/SXCity)

    Alex Perenishko (Detective/Narcotics/Vice) Monrovia Police officer demonstrating “Project Lifesaver”, using a directional attenna in Monrovia to find a particular person that is wearing a wristband that emits a tracking signal. The Monrovia Police Department has implemented a new strategy for quickly locating missing community members who suffer from Alzheimer’s or related disorders, dementia, Down’s Syndrome and Autism. Monrovia is the first agency in Southern California to implement Project Lifesaver. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Walt Mancini/SXCity)

  • Alex Perenishko (Detective/Narcotics/Vice) Monrovia Police demonstrating, “Project Lifesaver”, wears a Project Lifesaver battery pack whose signal strength, indicates how close to the missing person, that is wearing a wristband that emits a tracking signal. The Monrovia Police Department has implemented a new strategy for quickly locating missing community members who suffer from Alzheimer’s or related disorders, dementia, Down’s Syndrome and Autism. Monrovia is the first agency in Southern California to implement Project Lifesaver. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Walt Mancini/SXCity)

    Alex Perenishko (Detective/Narcotics/Vice) Monrovia Police demonstrating, “Project Lifesaver”, wears a Project Lifesaver battery pack whose signal strength, indicates how close to the missing person, that is wearing a wristband that emits a tracking signal. The Monrovia Police Department has implemented a new strategy for quickly locating missing community members who suffer from Alzheimer’s or related disorders, dementia, Down’s Syndrome and Autism. Monrovia is the first agency in Southern California to implement Project Lifesaver. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Walt Mancini/SXCity)

  • From left, Nancy Paulikas 2016 photo, next to new age-progressed photo released by family.

    From left, Nancy Paulikas 2016 photo, next to new age-progressed photo released by family.

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On Tuesday, the board approved a motion by Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger to spend $765,000 on an unprecedented system aimed at preventing wandering and helping find the missing as quickly as possible.

In addition to the voluntary bracelet registry, the plan includes a sweeping set of protocols and training for law enforcement, service agencies and hospital officials to improve coordination when people with memory loss go missing.

Improving coordination

The 17 strategies were recommended in December by The Bringing Our Loved Ones Home Task Force, which is led by the Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services and made up of 25 other service agencies, law enforcement departments and advocacy groups.

The task force was formed by Hahn last year after a Manhattan Beach woman with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Nancy Paulikas, wandered during a family outing to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in October 2016.

Despite exhaustive efforts by police and volunteers every day since, Paulikas, 57, remains missing. Police believe she is most likely lost in the medical system, being cared for as a Jane Doe in a mystery nursing facility.

“Heartbreakingly, Nancy’s story is not unique,” said Hahn, whose Fourth District includes the coastal South Bay. “Sixty percent of individuals with Alzheimer’s and 49 percent of children with autism will wander at some point and their caregivers live in constant fear of not knowing what will happen if they turn their backs.”

She said the program will make Los Angeles County a “model” for addressing the problem of wandering.

“No jurisdiction of our size has attempted to take on this problem in a comprehensive way,” Hahn said.

Paulikas’ husband, Kirk Moody, said although law enforcement agencies have protocols in place for situations like his, he has found them to be “inconsistently applied and tragically uncoordinated.”

When he called for updates in the days after his wife’s disappearance, Moody said both the Los Angeles and Manhattan Beach police departments told him the other was in charge. He also ran into difficulty contacting hospitals about Jane Does.

A ‘quantum leap’

Moody called the new plan a “quantum leap” at improving efforts to find others who go missing.

Most of the one-time program costs cover public outreach, marketing and training, including a comprehensive checklist for law enforcement agencies. The county will spend $30,000 for the Sheriff’s Department to purchase equipment and sign up with Project Lifesaver, a public safety nonprofit that provides the wristbands.

Officials stressed that the devices are only activated when individuals wearing them are reported missing.

They have proven highly successful in cities such as Glendale, where most wearers have been located by police within a few hours of wandering.

The Sheriff’s Department will purchase eight receivers used to triangulate radio frequency signals emitted from the bracelets, keeping two in helicopters, Lt. John Gannon said.

He said city police departments will be able to utilize the equipment through mutual aid agreements.

“There would be no fee and no charge for them to request our response,” Gannon said.

The task force recommended offering subsidies to help low-income families purchase bracelets.

In Glendale, they cost $375, plus $100 a year for battery maintenance.

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