AVON, Ind. (WISH) — Patience is perhaps the most important tool in Sarah Parent’s belt. With three young boys, two of which have autism, she said some days can be a struggle.
“It still gets to me when people are looking if they start having like a physical behavior or something that requires more of our attention and you’re in public and you just have this frantic moment,” Parent said.
Right now, she said, handling those situations is a little easier because her kids are still small. She has some concerns about what it will be like as they grow up and she’s not always around.
“Specifically Connor, sometimes struggles with understanding and respecting authority, so I worry as he gets older and strong if he’s in a situation that requires police or police are around, I want to make sure that the police are aware of his disability,” Parent said.
Awareness will soon come a lot easier to police, at least in Avon, where the Parent family lives.
The Avon Police Department is launching a new de-escalation and mental health awareness program.
The department says the new program will be called AWARE.
In addition to the Avon Police Department, all law enforcement agencies in Hendricks County are joining the effort.
According to the Avon Police Department, the goal of the department is to help law enforcement and first responders identify situations where they may be engaging with an individual with a disability.
The department is asking anyone with cognitive disabilities and their caretakers to go online and download a medical referral form.
Once the medical form is completed and signed, you can take it to any law enforcement office in Hendricks County.
Then the department will give you a special decal to place on your registered vehicle and home.
“The idea for us is we want to be proactive at the local level. we don’t want to wait until we have an encounter here and then it’s too late and at that point we have a hard time trying to regain the confidence in our community,” said Avon Police Deputy Chief Brian Nugent.
He said the program is also about making first responders feel more confident.
“To begin with, when an officer arrives on the scene of an accident, they may not know that the person in the front of that vehicle does not have the ability to comprehend, does not have the ability to communicate and it’s usually until the point when they’re unable to comply with orders where we see things start to escalate,” Nugent said.
Right now, Aware is only available to first responders and police in Hendricks County. Nugent said he hopes to eventually expand the program across central Indiana.
For more information on the program, click here.