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Here's how the 'Lost Assistance' bracelets in Pima County work

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department launched a “Lost Assistance” program this week. It’s aimed at people who can’t articulate information like their name.

Sergeant Erin Gibson said the program is meant to reunite them with caregivers faster.

“People who have Alzheimer’s, dementia. Nonverbal people, or any other disability that gets identified," Gibson said.

Caregivers can sign someone up to receive a rubber bracelet with a small metal plate that has a unique identifier on it.

If the wearer becomes lost, Gibson said, law enforcement would run that identifier through a database “and come up with an emergency contact — name, phone number — and also find out who this person is and where they live.”

People wandering off is relatively rare, but Gibson said it still happens.

“Working in the mental health support team,” said Gibson, “we get a lot of people who have Alzheimer’s, have dementia, and who aren’t able to articulate who they are or aren’t able to remember. And so this is just one added tool for law enforcement to reconnect people where they’re supposed to be.”

Ability 360 CEO Chris Rodriguez said as long as participants are consenting and information is safeguarded properly, the program can be just that.

But he said feedback from people with disabilities is crucial.

“There’s kind of this saying amongst the disability community that goes: ‘Nothing about us, without us,’” said Rodriguez.

Meaning: “Their opinions should be heard and taken into consideration when developing these types of programs.”

Gibson said those who already signed up should receive their bracelets in two weeks, and more sign up opportunities are being planned.

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Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.