Medina PD offers decals to alert first responders of people with special needs

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 6 October 2022 at 10:53 am

Those with special needs may not respond to commands in the usual way

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Debbie Fuller and her son Collin get approval from Officer Dustin Meredith of the Medina Police Department on placement of a decal on the door to Collin’s apartment indicating a person with special needs lives there. The decals are a new idea the police department is promoting to inform first responders a person in the home might not respond to their presence in the usual way.

MEDINA – A new program being promoted by the Medina Police Department is designed to provide first responders with pertinent information when encountering people with special needs.

Lt. Todd Draper has taken the lead to develop a decal which can be placed on the door or car window to let first responders know they may encounter a person with special needs. Assisting with the program are officers Dustin Meredith and Clayton Smith.

The idea for the decals came out of a Police Advisory Committee meeting, where Debbie Fuller of Medina shared information about a similar program she learned of in Lake Wales, Fla. The sheriff’s department there promotes the decals, which give first responders notice that someone in the house or car may not respond to commands or requests as they normally expect.

The decals are available for homes and cars.

As an example, Debbie said Collin once had a smoke alarm go off.

“He called me in a panic,” she said. “It was then I realized in an emergency situation, he wouldn’t know what to do. You can’t practice something like that.”

Collin was diagnosed at 18 months with pervasive development disorder. Over the years, his diagnosis changed through various autism spectrums, his mother said. He is able to live on his own, with daily supervision from Paula Stanton from the Arc. Stanton spends 25 hours a week assisting Collin with daily living skills, such as preparing meals and paying bills. She thinks the decals are a wonderful idea.

“When I can’t be around, emergency personnel should realize someone like Collin can’t process rapid fire questions, commands or requests,” Debbie said. “I’m hoping this program will bridge that gap.”

Draper thinks if they can get the information out it will help a lot of people.

“I hope this program catches on,” he said. “It will help people with various disabilities, not just autism.”

The idea for the decals was unrolled Aug. 2 during National Night Out, Draper said. Since then, 10 applications have been turned requesting decals. Information on the applications is also supplied to the Orleans County dispatch, so when a call comes in from a home with a decal, the dispatcher can alert the first responders.

The decals are designed to be weather resistant. The officers explained the correct place to put them on a car is on the little window behind the back door on the driver’s side.

“That is always the side where an officer approaches a vehicle,” Draper said.

Applications for a decal are available on the village website or at the Medina Police Department. They can also be picked up at Orleans County Mental Health Department and the Arc.

Draper also stressed families don’t have to display a sticker, if they would rather not,  because key personnel would have the information on file.