Caregivers of a "special needs" individual, whether a child or an adult, can participate in a new program at the Brazil City Police Department, the Special Needs Registry.
Brazil Police Chief Terry Harrison is in full support of creating a confidential registry to help provide information about a special needs individual to authorities in an emergency situation if a caregiver has been incapacitated.
"It makes perfect sense when you think about it," Harrison said. "We are generally the first place people call in an emergency situation."
The confidential Special Needs Registry will allow families to volunteer information that law enforcement, firemen and medical personnel can use to help a person who might not understand what is happening during an emergency situation. Individuals, whether child or adult, who could be considered for registration with the program are those with Autism, Asperger's, Alzheimer's and other mental or physical disorders.
Harrison said that applications are now available at the Brazil City Police Dept.
"I was really caught unaware that a program like this was out there, but now that it has been brought to my attention, I fully support it," Harrison said about a visit he had with Tammy Meeks.
Meeks, a new Brazil resident, has a mildly autistic child who becomes frustrated with new or strange surroundings. She recently provided the police department with up-to-date information about her child's medical condition, personality and a picture.
Meeks, who keeps a copy of the information on the refrigerator at home, said first responders could use that to help calm her child.
"A special needs individual may not be able communicate during a crisis and a first responder might not understand that persons' needs, their fears," Meeks said. "You may never think you will need a service like this, but you have to be prepared just in case."
Meeks encourages families to acknowledge that their special needs child, or adult, might need special consideration if something goes wrong. That is why she said parents of special needs children need to introduce children to as many emergency response people as possible.
"Emergency response people, especially law enforcement officers, are excellent about meeting with a special needs child to calm their fears," she said. "A family might not want everyone to know, but these people will be there in an emergency to help. A child needs to be familiar with them."
Meeks said that some families fear the stigmatism attached to special needs disorders.
"People need to realize that there's help out there, that they're not alone. It may seem that way at times, but most people are really positive," Meeks said. "People will work with you. You have to make people aware and educate them. We have to stick together, help and support each other."
Harrison agrees, but says the new registry will not work if people do not provide or maintain the information.
"Obviously this won't work without the most current information possible," he said, adding the information will be made only available to emergency response personnel who request it from the department. "We will keep all information in dispatch. It will be completely confidential. This will make it a lot faster and simpler to get help in a special needs situation then having to chase down someone that might know the person and how to help them. This has the potential to help many families in our community and in the county."
For more information about the Special Needs Registry, contact the Brazil City Police Department at 446-2211.
To learn more about Autisim, log on to www.NationalAutismAssociation.org.