Project Leo FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions About Project Leo
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.
- What is Project Leo?
The Florida legislature recently passed SB 230, also known as Project Leo. It is a state-funded pilot program launched by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of Florida and at Florida Atlantic University and the University of South Florida CARD Centers.
Project Leo will create pilot projects in certain areas of the state to provide locating technology to aid search-and-rescue efforts for persons with special needs in cases of elopement.
- How will these individuals be tracked?
Individuals who wander from home or school will be tracked by the Project Lifesaver equipment at their local sheriff’s office.
- Am I able to track my loved one with these devices?
No, special equipment used by the sheriff’s office is needed.
- Who could benefit from these locating devices?
These wristwatch-style tracking devices are meant for individuals who have Autism Spectrum Disorder and are at risk for wandering.
- Do I have to pay for these devices?
No. The devices are being made available through state grants and are available at no cost to people who qualify.
- What are the eligibility requirements?
Qualifying individuals must:
- reside in one of these counties: Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, or Suwannee;
- have documentation of a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder;
- have wandered away or is at risk of wandering; and
- need constant supervision and monitoring by a responsible adult, who can prevent wandering and can contact 911 in the event the individual is missing.
- What counts as “documentation of diagnosis”?
Documentation of diagnosis can be a copy of a report, doctor’s note, or IEP document that states the individual has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Documentation needs to be sent to the CARD office by mail, email (firstname.lastname@example.org), fax (352-846-3703), or it can be dropped off in person at our office located on 2046 NE Waldo Road Suite 3200 in Gainesville.
- How do these devices look like?
These are wristwatch-style tracking devices that can be attached to clothing or worn around the wrist or ankle.
- Why do we need to sign releases of information?
Releases of information are necessary so that CARD can share your information with the local sheriff’s office and school districts (if appropriate).
- Do you have to be a child to get these devices?
No. As long as the individual meets eligibility criteria, they can be of any age.
- How will these devices be distributed?
Each CARD office is working with the local Sheriff’s office to distribute the devices.
- Why are only 5 Counties covered under this legislature?
Project Leo is a pilot program. Based on the results and recommendations provided by the three Florida centers, the program could be expanded to other counties.
- My county is not listed in the eligibility requirements, what can I do?
If your county is not covered, contact your local sheriff’s office or police department to see if they have a similar program in your area. You may also contact your elected representatives to express your interest.
- Whom can we contact for more information about this program?
You can contact Ana Vilfort Garces at the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at 352-273-0581 or email@example.com