To kick off Autism Awareness Month, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Monmouth County Police Chief’s Association hosted the fourth annual Autism Forum and Resource Fair on April 5 at the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office in Freehold. The standing room-only crowd was the largest ever as uniformed officers, social workers, healthcare professionals and media learned about the county’s ongoing programs for individuals with autism and dementia as well as their families and caregivers.
Two essentially important programs discussed were the Project Lifesaver Program and the Special Needs Registry.
Project Lifesaver is a free program that provides tracking wristlets to people with autism, Alzheimer’s and other medical conditions which makes them at risk for wandering. These wristlets have turned many potential tragedies into happy endings by reducing the times to find missing people to under an hour in most cases. This is the 20th year of the program which currently has 173 enrollees. The county encourages anyone who could benefit from the services to enroll. Seniors age 60 and older should contact the Monmouth County Office on Aging at 732-308-3770, ext. 8780 for an application. Those with autism should contact the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office at 732-431-6400, ext. 1129 for an application.
The Special Needs Registry provides first responders with an individual’s vital information and special needs in the event of an emergency.
There is also a new and important initiative called the Blue Envelope Program, intended to safeguard special needs individuals while driving.
Police Chief Edward Gunnell explained that some individuals can have negative reactions to flashings lights or sirens, becoming disoriented, frozen or uncommunicative. Having a bright blue envelope they can hand to an officer can be helpful for all involved.
“Although this annual event is held during National Autism Awareness Month, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office and our partners in law enforcement are committed to acknowledging autism spectrum disorder all year long,” said Sheriff Shaun Golden. “Our useful programs help maintain the safety of individuals and spare families a lot of anxiety when locating or responding to a loved one’s needs. Every individual on the autism spectrum deserves an opportunity to succeed in life. It’s our job to assist them during their journey, to teach them that first responders support them and will help bring them closer to all that they can accomplish.”
Following the forum, there were demonstrations of the ways the county tracks and locates individuals. Those demonstrations included Project Lifesaving Tracking, a drone demonstration and bloodhound tracking by Officer Skye.
To further show their commitment to Autism Awareness Month, law enforcement personnel wore special blue shirts on designated days in April, and police officers proudly sported autism decals on police cruisers, donated to law enforcement agencies in Monmouth County by Autism Awareness with the Kelly Family.