The Department of Health Services (LA Health Services) is part of the interdepartmental effort known as L.A. Found. Championed by the Fourth and Fifth Supervisorial Districts, the goal of the program is to improve the process by which families and caregivers of individuals with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism, or other cognitive impairments including some mental illnesses could be found if they wander. Implementation of L.A. Found is led by the Los Angeles County Aging and Disabilities Department.
The effort is an ambitious undertaking, requiring multiple departments to work together to help caregivers in the perilous moments after a loved one goes missing. One of the key components includes the Project Lifesaver bracelet program, a voluntary system of trackable devices that are provided free of charge to ambulatory individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s, autism and the like to help locate them if they should wander.
When the caregiver of an individual participating in the Project Lifesaver Program calls 911, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Mental Health Evaluation Team (MET), can be deployed to assist with the search and work with the family of the missing individual to proactively look for the patient. Emergency coordination of services can be performed, even if the individual lives in a city with an independent law enforcement agency.
Another component of L.A. Found includes emergency coordination when someone with a cognitive impairment wanders. This includes sharing law enforcement critical missing person bulletins containing information about a missing person with hospitals, emergency room personnel and prehospital staff including emergency medical technicians who may see someone first.
The project is necessary and timely. According to the Alzheimer’s Association (2019), Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death among U.S. adults. Nearly 6 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s, and that number will continue to increase as the population ages. As many individuals opt to age in place either by preference or necessity, the caregiving often falls to family members. The ongoing caregiver shortage exacerbated by the pandemic does not seem to be improving. The L.A. Found Program and the Project Lifesaver bracelet are tools intended to offer support to caregivers, help locate individuals if they wander and can be used successfully to identify a John or Jane Doe and reunite them with their families. If someone is found wandering alone with this tracking device, you are encouraged to call 911 and ask the operator to contact the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Mental Evaluation Team.
To date, over 1000 trackable devices have been issued to LA County residents. The website for L.A. Found | Project Lifesaver (lacounty.gov) includes information on how to request a trackable device.
For additional information, please visit the L.A. Found website, or you can reach out to the L.A. Found Unit Manager Cinthie Lopez Paz at firstname.lastname@example.org or the L.A. Found Team at email@example.com .