ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - When someone with Alzheimer’s or autism goes missing, they rarely dress for the elements. It’s a concern weighing heavily on many families, especially when winter temperatures turn bitterly cold.
Andria Keith’s son, Brendan, is diagnosed with a form of autism that causes him to wander away. In fact, he wandered away during the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday.
“He was out in pajama pants and a t-shirt barefoot, and I was scared to death,” said Keith.
Brendan’s mother now has a greater peace of mind. That’s because they are part of the Care Trak program offered by St. Charles County.
Care Trak uses a transmitter shaped like a watch. The transmitter is worn by the person at risk of wandering away. The watch can be located with a receiver, as long as the receiver is within a certain range. If police search by helicopter, they can cover a great deal of distance in a short amount of time.
“We've got families that live in fear,” said St. Charles County Police Officer Steve Case. “I think this is huge. I think it gives them that peace of mind knowing that we’re going to be out there and that we’re going to be able to help.”
“It’s insurance,” said Keith. “And it’s wonderful.”
The program is especially meaningful to one of its instructors. Julie White trains officers on how to use Care Trak. Her own daughter, Emily, has autism and wandered off as a child.
“It was the scariest moment of my life. I still have nightmares about it,” said White. “When I talk to the parents who sign up for the program, I empathize and I completely understand because I’ve had that emotion. I’ve had that feeling.”
Requirements for participation include being a St. Charles County resident, a medical diagnosis that includes wandering away, a 24-hour caregiver and no automobile.
The St. Charles County Police Department is the only department in the area using the system. Case says the system has helped lead to 3,000 rescues in 3,000 missing person cases in other parts of the country.
“That’s a 100% success rate,” said Case.
The system is not to be confused with a GPS device. Case says tracking the signal in this case is much more precise. The initial cost of starting the program was $5,000.
When the program launched, the cost to a participant was $250. Case hopes to raise enough money so anyone with a need who lacks the means to pay for it, could still use Care Trak. Anyone interested in donating to help with those efforts should email Officer Case at email@example.com.
St. Charles County residents wanting more information about Care Trak can call 636-949-7400.