INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - A coalition of Indian River County law enforcement agencies has created a new voluntary registry to protect people with special needs during interactions with first responders.
On Nov. 8, the Vero Beach Police Department, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, Sebastian Police Department, Fellsmere Police Department, and Indian River Shores Public Safety Department announced the launch of the C.I.R.C.L.E. Special Needs Registry.
C.I.R.C.L.E. stands for Combined Indian River County Law Enforcement.
The C.I.R.C.L.E. Special Needs Registry allows individuals with special needs or their families to add their information to a list that will be used for the sole purpose of identification and protection of the person in an emergency or crisis situation.
“A national survey of Americans found that 18.5 percent of adults have experienced or have been diagnosed with a mental illness,” read the news release announcing the program. “That’s equivalent to 43.8 million people. These numbers do not even include the people afflicted by Alzheimer’s and dementia, the broad spectrum of autism, or even those who suffer from physical or mental handicaps. In addition, statistics show that a person suffering from a mental illness has a seven times greater rate of contact with law enforcement. This is in part due to the fact that we as law enforcement officers are usually the first ones called when there is an issue or someone is acting out or has an episode due to their mental or physical problems.”
Chief David Currey of the VBPD, Sheriff Deryl Loar of the IRCSO, Chief Michelle Morris of the SPD, Chief Rich Rosell of the IRSPSD, and Chief Keith Touchberry of the FPD pulled all their agencies together so that the information could be shared across all local agencies, as it is common for individuals with special needs to move between the jurisdictions.
“It is also extremely helpful in situations where Police Officers/Deputies come in contact with an individual with special needs who may be in distress but cannot communicate well enough to provide pertinent information to assist with bringing them home or turning them over to the proper caregiver or family member,” says the website set up to explain the program. “In these situations, the Special Needs Registry wrist band/ID card can assist with locating the information on file to achieve a successful outcome to the contact.”
The program is free of charge and open to individuals of any age who require special assistance in an emergency or interaction with local first responder agencies.
Individuals and caregivers may enroll themselves or others with any medical condition or disability, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Alzheimer’s or dementia, bipolar disorder, and Down syndrome. Adults with hearing or speech impairment may also enroll themselves.
About two weeks after enrolling, individuals will receive a wrist band and identification card in the mail. Both will have a number that first responders can use to identify the person and gain access to the information in the registry.
According to the VBPD, there are strict regulations controlling who can access and disseminate the information. The information may be shared with local agencies or other jurisdictions when the person has an encounter with law enforcement or other first responders who need the information in the performance of their duties.
While all information in the registry is voluntarily provided, during sign up individuals and caregivers can choose to provide information about physical appearance, the most likely places where he/she would go, as well as triggers, stimulants, and de‐escalation techniques.
The VBPD says that another advantage to joining the registry is so that first responders will not have to ask parents or guardians during a high stress situation to remember identifiers and details that may help resolve the case faster. If you need help finding or protecting somebody on the list, inform the 911 call center that the individual is registered with the C.I.R.C.L.E. Special Needs Registry. This will help expedite the information being distributed to the responding officers.
To register, complete the Special Needs Registry Form at www.vbpd.org/CIRCLE and turn it into your local police or sheriff, or stop by any of the agencies.
For more information, visit www.vbpd.org/CIRCLE.