Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $73,332)
In 2020, the Knoxville Police Department (KPD) began conducting research into programs that would aid law enforcement in expediting the finding of individuals with special needs who have wandered from safety. Speaking with Program Managers from California and Florida, the benefits of having a registry program became very apparent. Caregivers for individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s, autism and other cognitive or developmental disabilities can register their family member on a secure website and provide data that will aid first responders in rescue and recovery efforts.
Establishing a registry program similar to Take Me Home and Project Safe & Sound will provide an opportunity for KPD to dually support those with developmental disabilities who are prone to wander. The registry will consist of personal information, including photos, of at-risk individuals. In the event this person wanders, personal data can be immediately distributed to all law enforcement personnel through a secure intranet site. Having this data immediately available will allow pertinent information to be shared through media outlets and the 9-1-1 Alert Notification system to solicit aid from the public in locating the at-risk individual without delay.
KPD staff have reached out to the Autism Society of East Tennessee, the Pat Summitt Foundation, Knox County School District and Knox County Emergency Communications to share the vision of the registry. The enthusiastic support from each organization has confirmed the benefits this will have throughout the region. Working with families and clients who have been diagnosed with disabilities, the Autism Society and Pat Summit Foundation will be partners in creating a person-centered program that minimizes restrictive interventions. School Administrators and 9-1-1 professionals have acknowledged the need for a registry and are committed to providing assistance to help raise public awareness. Once the registry has been established, a focused advertisement campaign will be launched and distributed through KPD and these partners as printed material and through the internet.
In addition to the registry, KPD will coordinate the presentation of nationally recognized training to first responders to aid them in dealing with individuals with special needs. Classes presented by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and other national organizations will provide a greater understanding of individuals with disabilities. Similar training classes will be offered to school administrators and staff, family members, caregivers, guardians, area clinicians and other stakeholders. Training schedules will be compiled and shared through social media and as public service announcements.