An autistic teen from Waterford, New York, went missing this week and apparently drowned in the Mohawk River.
The search for both Blaauboer and Williams could have been over in hours, if not minutes, if the two had been enrolled in the Project Lifesaver program, officials have suggested.
Developed in 1999 as a way to bring peace of mind to caregivers of individuals with cognitive disorders such as autism, Alzheimer's and other dementias, those enrolled in the program wear a small transmitter on the wrist or ankle that emits an individualized frequency signal. If they go missing, the caregiver notifies local law enforcement, who can use the technology to pinpoint their location.
There are similar technologies with other names, but Project Lifesaver was one of the first and is used by the majority of county sheriff's offices around the region.
"Thinking about my 16-year-old son Michael who lives with autism, I know how children with autism can tend to wander," said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who helped bring the program to his home county of Schenectady in 2015.
"It's critical that we invest in this life-saving technology to protect our most vulnerable citizens," he said.
Santabarbara introduced a bill in April to expand the technology statewide to those who need it. In addition to the technology, law enforcement agencies need training in how to use the program, he said.