KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
August 20, 2021
By Natalie Cook Clark
Over a year since debuting, Fort Bend County’s "Take Me Home" initiative is growing and hopes to soon move to the next phase of introducing a mobile app. The program expedites search and time to locate loved ones missing with cognitive disabilities.
Photo Courtesy: Sgt. Hricko
One Year Later Program Grows in Service
In December 2020, the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office launched a program aimed to help residents with cognitive disabilities such as autism, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Down Syndrome. The “Take Me Home” initiative helps police officers to better understand and communicate with these residents.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 out of 10 people living with dementia roam from their homes.
Currently 166 Fort Bend County citizens are enrolled in the program. Family members can easily enroll online.Enrolled individuals’ range in ages from 2-90 years old.
“It’s not an issue of if a loved one with a cognitive disability will roam off but when,” says Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Matthew Hricko, the founder of "Take Me Home."
Sgt. Hricko has been with the department for 15 years and understands the importance of such a program.
“I used to babysit a boy and he was non-verbal and on the spectrum,” says Sgt. Hricko.
Stephen, the boy Hricko used to watch, is now 30-years-old. He was the first individual to register for the “Take Me Home” program when it debuted last year.
“It just takes someone taking a nap or turning their back for a moment and then someone can be out, roaming the streets,” says Sgt. Hricko.
To date the program hasn’t come into play during an actual search, but FBCSO has located multiple missing individuals who then they assisted in registering with the program. If a similar event occurs, Take Me Home will be ready to assist.
Must Advance with the Times
Sgt. Hricko says that the next step is to roll out a mobile app.
We want to stay with the times,” says Sgt. Hricko. “I want it to be 2021 and tech savvy.”
A mobile app would make it easier for residents to enroll and upload pictures from the phones. It will also incorporate at GO Reference Map so officers can easily access area registered homes when looking for a missing individual.
“It will reduce the search and time to locate loved ones dramatically,” says Sgt. Hricko.
Hopes to Rollout Program Statewide
Recently he spoke at the Sheriff’s Association of Texas Conference about the program and has been approached by several counties including Dallas and Liberty. Eventually his goal is to roll the program out statewide.
317 law enforcement officers have access to the database. No training is needed for this program. It is a resource to assist law enforcement when a resident is missing.
Launching such an initiative and keeping it current takes support and funding.
“IT is great and worked really hard to make this come together,” says Sgt. Hricko. “They even got the funding of $90,000.”
“I’m hoping that the county and our partners will help make this more accessible to residents,” says Sgt. Hricko.
The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with Hope for Three Autism Advocates, The Arc of Fort Bend County, Alzheimer’s Association Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter and GiGi’s Playhouse to help identify residents who can benefit from this program.
Fort Bend County families can easily register an individual online. Requirements include submitting a current picture, demographic information, and caregiver contact information.
“Please share this program with anyone you feel could benefit from it,” says Sgt. Hricko.