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Inspector Steve Scott and Margaret Hoogewerf
 
 
 
Inspector Steve Scott deals with the impacts of dementia and other cognitive impairments in both his professional and personal life.
 
That’s because Insp Scott not only oversees the WA Police Force’s Emergency Operations Unit, which conducts searches aimed at locating missing persons, but also is the son of a dementia patient diagnosed with the 
condition eight years ago.
 
Insp Scott’s experiences, in both the Emergency Operations Unit at its Maylands headquarters and the living room of his parents’ Armadale home, inspired him to create Safe & Found WA, which our member describes as “a low-cost insurance 
policy that, when everything else in your safety plan fails, will come to your loved one’s rescue.”
 
According to Dementia Australia WA, the state branch of the nation’s peak body for people whom dementia impacts, the condition is the second leading cause of Australian deaths. 
 
Dementia Australia WA estimates more than 35,000 Western Australians are living with the condition, and without a medical breakthrough, forecasts that number to double by 2050.
 
Approximately 70% of Western Australians with dementia live in the community.
 
Insp Scott’s 78-year-old father, Bernie, joined the ranks of Australia’s officially diagnosed dementia patients in 2014.
 
“It’s like he’s already gone. He’s not there. He doesn’t talk to anyone when he used to engage in conversation, usually leading it. He’s trapped in the living death that’s dementia,” said Insp Scott.
 
“My experiences as my father’s son meant I understood dementia on a personal level, but it was only when I got to the Emergency Operations Unit that I realised how common the condition is. With my professional background, I wanted to 
make a personal difference, so using my police connections and investigative skills, I began looking into what, if anything, other Australian jurisdictions were doing.”
Insp Scott’s enquiries led him across the Nullarbor Plain to Adelaide, the city in which the MedicAlert Foundation has its Australian head office. A national organisation that had cooperated with Australian emergency services for more than 50 years and didn’t limit itself to just dementia patients, the MedicAlert Foundation was the perfect partner to help bring Insp Scott’s embryonic idea to life.
 
“Discovering the MedicAlert Foundation, its extensive network and its technological capability was my most important investigative finding when I was trying to give birth to Safe & Found WA,” said Insp Scott.
 
“Partnering with the MedicAlert Foundation opened up Safe & Found WA to cognitive impairments other than dementia, such as autism, Asperger’s and Down syndrome. The MedicAlert Foundation had a proud history of managing confidential 
information in emergency situations, which was another excellent reason for us to team up.
 
“The MedicAlert Foundation collates and manages the sensitive data that powers Safe & Found WA. The WA Police Force can only access the Safe & Found WA system in response to an alert, so the agency is an end user of the system rather than a system administrator.”
 
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Richard Hoogewerf with WA Police Force officers after he was found using the Safe & Found WA database 
 
 
 
Lost person behaviour information, which Insp Scott and his WA Police Force colleagues lodge every time someone goes missing, feeds into an Australia-wide manual from which it’s possible to identify trends. Safe & Found WA is better than general statistical data at predicting individual behaviours because it’s person specific.
 
In Safe & Found WA’s first five operational months, it assisted in six rescues, one of which located a young autistic man who’d gone missing. The man was the subject of a Safe & Found WA profile his family had created, a profile that contained not only his personal details, including his name, date of birth and a recent photograph, but also his favourite people, places and things.
 
It was because of the man’s Safe & Found WA profile the WA Police Force knew about the missing person’s affinity with water. It didn’t take long for police officers to find the man sitting in a neighbour’s backyard spa.
 
“Tracking technology is a valuable tool and I recommend its use. However, it isn’t the panacea for locating missing persons that many people think it is. Devices fail. Batteries go flat. Telcos have blackspots. And trackers aren’t any good if the person whom they’re designed to track removes them, either inadvertently or intentionally. Safe & Found WA supplements tracking technology,” said Insp Scott.
 
Already Safe & Found WA has nearly 150 members, but Insp Scott’s aim is to convince the carers of every vulnerable person in Western Australia to create a profile on the system as part of their risk management plans. 
 
Insp Scott dreams of a time when Safe & Found WA has the same level of brand recognition and public trust as Lifeline or Beyond Blue, not-for-profit organisations that have become synonymous with Australian mental health services.
 
To find out more about Safe & Found WA, visit its website at safeandfound.org.au.
 
Safe & Found WA has a joining fee of $99, which include one year’s membership and a Safe & Found identity bracelet, with a subsequent annual membership fee of $49. 
 
Safe & Found WA is a registered National Disability Insurance Scheme provider, plus some private health funds and local government authorities contribute to start-up or ongoing membership costs.