Innovative Ways PSO Best Serves All Citizens
Pasco Sheriff’s Office always looks for ways to best serve citizens, including those with cognitive conditions or special needs, such as those with autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s and more. Interactions with first responders can be frightening in an emergency, like a car crash or a report of a missing individual, especially for those with cognitive conditions. PSO has several ways to ensure smooth interactions for everyone involved. Deputies are trained in ways to best manage situations in which someone is experiencing a crisis. PSO also offers other helpful steps for families and loved ones of those with cognitive conditions. In observance of National Autism Awareness Month in April, PSO is highlighting a few of the ways in which PSO helps ensure all citizens are safe.
Autism Awareness Program
PSO implemented the Autism Awareness Program, providing first responders with information about an individual, provided by a guardian. Should an incident arise where an individual with autism cannot vocalize important information, the Autism Awareness Program can provide this, through an identification card the person carries with critical information to make the interaction as smooth as possible. Not only does this card contain a person’s name, address and information for an emergency contact, but it can also contain a person’s preferred interaction methods or things that will help them trust a new person or soothe them. For instance, if an individual tends to shut down in a stressful situation, a deputy can see this information on the card, make a calmer space for that person and break the ice by talking about a television show or game they enjoy. The other side of the card includes information that can help other first responders that may not have experience interacting with those with autism.
Cognitive Needs Registration
PSO’s Cognitive Needs Registration can help provide deputies with vital information during an interaction with an individual with a cognitive condition, and contact their guardian in an expedited manner. This online registration provides PSO with specific information such as typical behaviors, calming techniques, favorite locations and an emergency contact that will help PSO’s response should a loved one with a cognitive condition interact with PSO. This registry does not require individuals to carry items such as the Autism Awareness Card, and is stored in PSO’s computer systems so deputies can better handle an emergency situation in your area. Those with loved ones with special cognitive needs, such as dementia or autism, can register them at PascoSheriff.com/Cognitive-Needs-Registration/.
Crisis Intervention and De-escalation Training
PSO’s deputies are also trained in crisis intervention and de-escalation. This equips deputies with the knowledge they need to respond to a variety of high stress situations. This training also provides them with the opportunity to meet individuals from the autism community and talk to them about how law enforcement can best respond to calls they’re part of. PSO understands that our members may not have previously interacted with anyone from the autism community, and this opportunity is vital for us to best serve all citizens. During the training, deputies hear from an individual with autism and their loved ones on ways deputies and other first responders can build trust in a stressful moment in ways that are helpful.
Safety Net Tracking
Wandering from home can be dangerous for those with cognitive or other medical concerns, as they may react in different ways to those searching for them or may be drawn to dangerous elements, such as bodies of water. Safety Net Tracking is a helpful option for those who may wander from home. When an individual is reported missing, their Safety Net Tracking device is activated to help locate them quickly and safely.
Behavioral Health Intervention Team
PSO has one of Florida’s largest behavioral health units. The Behavioral Health Intervention Team, or BHIT, aims to connect citizens that frequently use emergency services with community-based resources to assist them with issues they may face, such as substance abuse, houselessness or mental health conditions. Additionally, BHIT finds ways to better serve citizens that have more specific needs, such as veterans or those with cognitive disorders. BHIT also manages PSO’s Autism Awareness Card program, and has compiled community-based resources for our citizens on PSO’s website.
PSO is proud to provide innovative ways to best serve all citizens, including those with specific medical needs. This includes Autism Awareness identification cards, PSO’s Cognitive Needs Registration, critical intervention training for deputies, including de-escalation methods and Safety Net Tracking.
PSO’s Autism Awareness Identification Program
For more information on PSO’s Autism Awareness Identification Program or to request a card, contact PSOCares@pascosheriff.org.
PSO Cognitive Needs Registration
To register a loved one online with PSO’s online Cognitive Needs Registration visit: PascoSheriff.com/Cognitive-Needs-Registration/.
Safety Net Tracking
If you have a loved one who is prone to wandering, you can learn more by visiting SafetyNetTracking.com or by calling 727-844-7781.
Visit www.PascoSheriff.com/MENTALHEALTH.html for a list of community-based resources.