Citing abysmally low usage rates of a life-saving service designed to protect residents with developmental disabilities and dementia, Warren County Sheriff Candidate Charlie Makatura recently announced plans to better serve and assist the county’s most vulnerable residents if elected.
“It’s a great thing that Project Lifesaver is offered by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office to protect our most vulnerable residents,” said Makatura. “However, it’s a disgrace that the service has been utilized just three times in the last two-plus years.” Makatura says he thinks that this poor usage rate stems from a lack of outreach to publicize the program.
Information obtained via a Open Public Records Act request shows that Project Lifesaver has been utilized just one time since Jan. 2016, and only three times since Jan. 2014.
Project Lifesaver is a life-saving service provided by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office for residents afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or with autism, Down syndrome, or cognitive impairments. Participants register with the sheriff’s office and wear a special wrist or ankle bracelet equipped with a small transmitter which emits a signal that law enforcement can track when someone goes missing, reducing search time from days and hours to mere minutes. According to the official Warren County Sheriff’s Office website, “the Warren County Sheriff’s Office serves as the lead agency for Project Lifesaver.”
Makatura noted a March 31, 2016 report issued by the Center for Disease Control that New Jersey’s rate of children identified with an autism spectrum disorder is the highest in the nation – one in 41 children, compared to one in 68 nationally – an increase of 12 percent from just two years ago.
“Unfortunately, nearly all of us have been touched in some way by autism, Down syndrome, dementia or Alzheimer’s,” said Makatura. “It’s the duty of those in law enforcement to enact a proactive approach to ensure we’re protecting those who need it most, and as sheriff, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”
He says, “I’ve been spending time meeting with the families and caregivers who know these diseases best so I can have an even keener understanding of the issues that matter most in this important community. As sheriff, I will personally make sure every resident, family, caregiver, support group and treatment facility who can be assisted by Project Lifesaver is fully aware of the sheriff’s ability to play a proactive, critical role in better protecting our residents.”
Makatura served for 22 years in the state police; is a United States Air Force and New Jersey Air National Guard veteran; has business experience from M&M Mars; and currently serves as councilmember for Belvidere.