It’s called SafetyNet and is not only going to help our local police departments but may help others here in Western Mass. as well.
The family of 80-year-old, Esteban Rivera-Vega says he is home safe after going missing from his Springfield home Sunday.
Police told us they found Vega, who has Alzheimer’s disease, later that day.
However, SafetyNet might have helped find Vega a little quicker.
Last July, State Police started using the tracking system.
A loved one who has a cognitive disease wears a bracelet with a radio transmitter inside it at all times. When you realize your family member or friend is missing, you can call police who will then track the radio signals.
“Thus far we continue to train with it, we’ve had four call outs with it, they’ve all been in eastern Mass. All of those cases, although we were on a track, the person was located by someone else,” explains State Police Lt. Robert Leverone.
Every State Trooper is trained in how to use the device, but they also have backup.
At the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department they’ve been undergoing training using SafetyNet and Lt. Karen Pitts told us this will be a tremendous help here in Western Mass.
“What we’re looking to do is to help State Police departments and be a secondary response to state police departments and assisting them helping find people with cognitive disorders who may have gotten lost. We want to get to those individuals very quickly,” she says.
According to police it takes about an hour to locate someone using the tracker.
The Sheriff’s Department has 4 SafetyNet units, one for this location and other sites they have in Springfield and in Chicopee.
Psychiatrist Stuart Anfang with Baystate Medical Center says that equipment like this could be key when looking for those with cognitive diseases, ”It’s really all about safety and it’s going to vary from person to person. Sometimes you wouldn’t know until the first incident happens.”
However, if police can find loved ones faster it might give caregivers a little piece of mind.
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department will start using SafetyNet next month.
A bill is currently in the State House that would allow insurance to cover the purchase of devices like SafetyNet for those with cognitive diseases.