Wyoming State Legislators Continue the Fight to Protect Special Needs Individuals

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Wyoming State Senators Wayne Johnson, Tony Ross, and Bruce Burns & Wyoming State Representatives; Ken Esquibel, Bill Pownall, James Byrd, and Tyler Lindholm Have Proposed SF0081 Project Life saver, ‘Kevin’s Law’ The purpose of SF0081 is to protect individuals with severe traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s, Autism and other cognitive disorders who are prone to the life threatening behavior of wandering.

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For the second year in a row hopeful and motivated by State Senators Wayne Johnson, Tony Ross, and Bruce Burns, and State Representatives Ken Esquibel, Bill Pownall, James Byrd, and Tyler Lindholm, along with Project Lifesaver Coordinator and honoree for the 2014 WYHY Credit Union Award for his advocacy, Detective Donald Heiduck are proposing SF0081, “Kevin’s Law” in 2015. Last year the bill fell short just by two votes. This is a significant piece of legislation that will protect and when necessary, quickly locate individuals with Alzheimer’s, Autism and other cognitive disorders who are prone to the life threatening behavior of wandering.

What is SF0081, ‘Kevin’s Law?’ If this bill is passed it will provide grants statewide in Wyoming to help implement the Project Lifesaver program in all counties. The Project Lifesaver program is a 501 (C) (3) community based, public safety, non-profit organization that provides law enforcement, fire/rescue, other first responders and caregivers, with technology and training to protect, and when necessary, quickly locate individuals with cognitive disorders who have wandered.

The initial catalyst for the proposed legislation is related to a local Wyoming community tragedy. Please see: I report from Cnn.com on November 29, 2009, http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-362616 and from a December 14, 2009 article from Wyomingnews.com http://wyomingnews.com/articles/2009/12/14/featured_story/01top_12-14-09.txt

Most recently the loving parents of Kevin Monk, Janice and Ken Monk, joined the fight for SF0081:

“Kevin Monk had a severe traumatic brain injury from an automobile accident in 2000 during his third year of medical school. He was in a coma for over three months and was never expected to be more than a vegetable. He not only came out of the coma, but he has thrived and become a beacon of hope for everyone he meets. His brain injury was so severe, it completely erased his entire life memories, and his short term memory only lasts for a few minutes. Due to these memory deficits, he can go to a restroom in a restaurant or store and then come out having no idea where he is, who he is with, or where to go. He could very easily walk out the door without appropriate clothing and be lost immediately. He can easily be exploited or injured or abducted due to his childlike trust of everyone."

Kevin was the first individual in Laramie County to obtain the Project Lifesaver bracelet, and it has truly been a blessing for Kevin and our family. There are hundreds of families all over Wyoming who deal with the same daily stress as we do who would benefit from Project Lifesaver, being introduced as SF0081, the Lifesaver Program.

SF0081 would give every county in Wyoming the opportunity to provide this program for their citizens in need, such as those with brain injuries, Alzheimer’s, or Autism.”

The Project Lifesaver training program is recognized and approved by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and The Department of Justice. Project Lifesaver is both the first organization to apply protection and locating technology for the search and rescue of individuals with cognitive disorders and has remained the leader, the Gold Standard.

Project Lifesaver is a subject matter expert and advisor on the wandering issue for:

Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s disease (LEAD), National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Alzheimer’s Foundation, and the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA).

This proposed legislation is fully supported by:

Laramie County Sheriff Department, the Cheyenne Police Department, the Cheyenne Fire Department, Laramie County Emergency Management, the Laramie County Volunteer Fire Districts, Natrona County Sheriff’s Department, Natrona County Emergency Management, the Converse County Sheriff’s Department, the Wyoming Mounted Association, the Southeast Wyoming Search and Rescue Team, the Laramie County Volunteer Search and Rescue Teams, Laramie County Emergency Ambulance Services, local Wyoming VFW Chapter and the Sons of the American Legion, and numerous community civic groups, businesses, churches, and private individuals.

Keeping our loved ones safe is always a top priority but it is even of greater concern when those loved ones are living with cognitive conditions such as traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s, or Autism since they may be prone to wandering.

Wandering is one of the most frightening and potentially life-threatening behaviors that may accompany a cognitive condition. As many as 60 percent of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease will wander at some point and a recent study of Autistic children showed that 50% of all children with Autism wander. The Autism wandering and elopement study found that approximately half of parents of children with autism report that their child elopes, with the behavior peaking at age four. Among these families, nearly 50% say that their child went missing long enough to cause significant concern about safety.

The statistics related to wandering behavior is reason for concern with the Baby Boomer generation and Autism rates increasing: If a person is lost and not found within 24 hours, the chance for serious injury and even death is nearly 50 percent. This holds especially true during the cold winter months when individuals are vulnerable to harsh weather conditions or if the individual lives near water. Wandering can happen anytime for an individual with a cognitive disorder and if a person wanders once it is likely that they will wander again. Any number of factors can trigger a wandering episode.

This Draft legislation would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of many dedicated individuals such as; Detective Donald F. Heiduck of the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department and Officer Becky Juschka of the Cheyenne Police Department, along with the support of many of their public safety/service colleagues, public official sponsor's such as Senator Johnson, Senator Ross, Senator Burns Representative Esquibel, Representative Byrd, Representative Lindholm, Representative Pownall, Senator Johnson, and an army of community minded concerned Wyoming citizens and community organizations.

Contact your State Senator and House members to express your support for this Draft legislation:

Senate Members of the 62nd Wyoming Legislature:
[http://legisweb.state.wy.us/LegislatorSummary/LegislatorList.aspx?strHouse=S&strStatus=N

House Members of the 62nd Wyoming Legislature:
[http://legisweb.state.wy.us/LegislatorSummary/LegislatorList.aspx?strHouse=H&strStatus=N

For more information about this Draft legislation contact Senator Wayne Johnson at Wayne.Johnson(at)wyoleg.gov, Senator Tony Ross at Tony.Ross(at)wyoleg.gov, Senator Bruce Burns at Bruce.Burns(at)wyoleg.gov, or Representative's Ken Esquibel at Ken.Esquibel(at)wyoleg.gov, Tyler Lindholm at Tyler.Lindholm(at)wyoleg.gov, Bill Pownall at Bill.Pownall(at)wyoleg.gov, James Byrd at James.Byrd(at)wyoleg.gov.

For more information about the Project Lifesaver program contact:

Joseph Salenetri
Senior Communications Advisor
josephsalenetri(at)hotmail.com

or

Elizabeth Kappes
Public Relations Coordinator-Special Projects
ekappes(at)projectlifesaver.org

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Elizabeth Kappes
@ProjectLifesavr
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