Hall works with Project Lifesaver
By By LYDIA GRIMES
Alzheimer's is a terrible disease that eats away at the individual's memory and, in some cases, the body as well. It is progressive and degenerative which affects short time memory. There are an estimated 78,000 people in Alabama and over 5,000,000 in the United States who have Alzheimer's and many of them wander away from their home and care giver at some point.
When Alzheimer's patients reach the stage of wandering, they often walk away from home when no one is looking. Most times they say they are going "home." This, in most cases, means the home they knew as a child or where they lived many years ago. They have a better memory of a time long ago than they do of what is happening in the present.
Wandering away from home can be very dangerous and there are several cases in recent memory where the outcome has been disastrous. They can't find their way home and if in a heavily populated area they may wind up in a strange place. Twenty percent of patients, who are found. die and 35 percent require hospitalization.
Investigator Lee Hall of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office is trying to help change the situation for Alzheimer's patients in this area.
Project Lifesaver was founded in 1999 by the 43rd Virginia Search and Rescue in Chesapeake, Va. Since that time the program has spread to 33 states and into Canada. Tuscaloosa was the first Alabama county to become part of the program and Dale County the second. Investigator Hall represented Escambia County in a training session at Ozark in November of last year. He was recently the speaker at the Escambia County Alzheimer's support group meeting in Brewton to share what he learned.
The program works on the same principal as tracking endangered species of wildlife. In the case of people, they are outfitted with bracelets that can be tracked electronically by members of law enforcement. The bracelets can be detected a mile away on the ground and as much as 10 miles from the air. They are not cheap. Each one costs $260 and the batteries cost $96 for a year's supply. The sheriff's department will take responsibility of changing the batteries.
The Escambia County Sheriff's Department will have five bracelets to begin with and funding has been provided by McMillan Trust, the Findley Foundation and BankTrust with additional monies coming from the department's pistol fund. The cooperation between law enforcement and civic organizations to provide equipment is a unique partnership. As the number of bracelets needed increases, it is the hope of the department to get businesses to sponsor them. This will make it possible to obtain the needed equipment with no expense to those who use them.
Hall was raised in the Damascus community, the son of Autry Hall and Anne Hall, who is a schoolteacher at W.S. Neal. He attended W.S. Neal and graduated from there in 1995. In some ways he was an average kid growing up in a small community. He played in the band and his words "was just a normal kid." In one way he was very different from the other kids in his age group.
His parents allowed him to take flying lessons at Brewton Airport and he soloed on his 16th birthday.
He attended Jefferson Davis Community College for a year and a half and then transferred to Troy State University where he received his bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 1999. While attending college in Troy he worked with the Troy Police Department as a jailer. After he received his degree he came back to Brewton and was hired by Brewton Police Chief Pat Kelly to work with the department in Brewton.
He married in 2000 to a local girl, Lisa Arrant, who is a sales supervisor at Colonial Bank. He became the father of a son, Ryan, who is eight, upon his marriage and they now have a daughter, Megan, who is two.
Hall moved to the Escambia County Sheriff's Department in 2003 and then to the Escambia County Domestic Violence Crime Unit.
Hall says he doesn't have time to do a lot outside of his job but he does love to fish, cook and spend time with his kids. They attend First Assembly of God Church in East Brewton.