Project Leo: Free Tracking Devices Available to Individuals with ASD in Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee Counties
The Missing Persons Bill (known as Project Leo) has been signed by the governor. Good! However, the funding that was requested to operate this program was cut due to other legislative priorities. Sad! Unfortunately, this means that we will only be able to provide support for this bill if we are able to secure donated funding toward purchase of tracking bracelets/sensors. We are working on this now, but for full implementation, we encourage you to contact your local legislators about funding this Bill going forward so we can serve individuals at risk of wandering through Project Leo. We will continue to provide training and technical assistance to our law enforcement agencies to ensure that they have important information about people with ASD and how to best support and serve them. If you have safety concerns for a family member, please let your coordinator know.
Although the Project Leo pilot project has ended, each of the sheriff’s offices in Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee Counties should have additional tracking devices still available for individuals with ASD who need them for free. Those from other counties are encouraged to contact their sheriff’s offices and their elected state representative to let them know you are interested in this program for your county.
Project Leo is a pilot project to provide personal devices to aid search & rescue efforts for persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee Counties.
This year, the Florida Legislature passed Section 937.041, Florida Statutes, to provide funding to the University of Florida Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UF CARD) for the purchase of special personal devices. These wearable devices aid in search-and-rescue efforts. UF CARD is collaborating with the sheriff’s offices of Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee Counties to distribute the devices to eligible participants.
Who is Eligible?
These devices will be provided at no cost to a person who meets all of the following criteria:
- resides in one of these counties: Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, or Suwannee;
- has documentation of a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder;
- has wandered away or is at risk of wandering; and
- needs constant supervision and monitoring by a responsible adult, who can prevent wandering and can contact 911 in the event the individual is missing.
If you know of someone who meets these criteria, please have their legal guardian contact UF CARD at 352-273-0581 to register.
UF CARD will need signed release of information forms in order to share information with:
- Project Lifesaver™;
- the local sheriff’s office, which will contact the family to set up an appointment for delivery of and instruction on Project Lifesaver™ equipment ; and
- the school district (as applicable) to promote safety in all settings.
Questions? Please see our FAQs or call us at 352-273-0581.
Read more about Project Leo in the following news stories:
- Mayo Free Press
Sheriff credits Project Lifesaver for boy’s quick recovery
Project Leo Helps Parents Track Autistic Children
- UF Health News
In memory of 9-year-old Leo, free tracking devices available to people with autism spectrum disorder
- The Independent Florida Alligator
Project Leo to offer tracking devices for individuals with autism
Other Options: Scent Saver Kits
Scent Saver kits preserve the scent of a loved one prone to wandering and can assist K9 search efforts in the event of an emergency. Check with your local sheriff’s office to see if they have a program. Here is a news story about the program in Marion County: https://www.wuft.org/news/2017/06/19/marion-county-sheriffs-office-hands-out-scent-preservation-kits.