It seems there are frightening, tragic headlines involving law enforcement virtually every day. For families of people with Alzheimers, Autism, or other Intellectual and Development Disabilities (AAIDD), the concern about their loved one’s world clashing with law enforcement can be terrifying. Fear, suspicion, and the resulting increase in violence across the world only make things worse.
These families feel particularly uneasy as they have to deal with the daily stresses of AAIDD, as well as negotiate the unpredictability of the outside world. For many, these issues lead almost inevitably to some form of interaction with law enforcement. During a crisis, the difference between aid and tragedy often comes down to a law enforcement officer’s familiarity with, and response to all forms of AAIDD. Children and adults may have difficulty processing stressful situations, behaviors that are unfamiliar to many, and communication problems. The biggest question is, of course, is law enforcement prepared to deal with our loved ones in a way that ensures the best outcome? Unfortunately at this time, throughout the US, the current overarching answer is, “No.”
The Louisa County Sheriff's Office is developing a pilot program to assist first responders by trying to improve these outcomes for people with AAIDD. The Project First Responder program will allow family members and other caregivers to provide crucial information about their loved ones to first responders. The information will be utilized by emergency personnel to properly respond to situations involving AAIDD children or adults with details about proper interaction and care. We are also currently trying to improve the education of our officers in the task of interacting with those afflicted with any type of AAIDD.