Berlin police start new Special Needs Alert Program
"When we don’t know the back story to a lot of those individuals who might have mental illnesses or other issues, we’re at a disadvantage," explains Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing.
The Berlin Police Department is ready to improve service for individuals with special needs and their tool is a new program called SNAP.
"Surrounding agencies actually have gotten training in crisis intervention and autism and other mental illnesses, and what we found was a lot of people in crisis when we get there, we have no idea of their history. Therefore, we are not really ready to go ahead and help de-escalate their situation."
The Special Needs Alert Program gives officers important history. It helps them learn more about individuals with special needs so they can better handle an emergency situation.
"First responders know before they get to the home, who's in there, what their triggers are, how to handle the situation, so they're already arriving with all that information in hand. They don't have to arrive and try to figure out the situation at the scene. They already know what they're going to deal with and already have a plan going into it," says Worcester County Developmental Center Director Jack Ferry.
Ferry works with people with intellectual disabilities and he's one of many who believe that SNAP will help first responders adjust to a variety of challenging circumstances.
"One of the similar things with them all is difficulty with noises and things like that, and so if you think, if it's a fire going on, you have alarms you have lights, sirens and things like that so that's going to be a terrifying situation for them," says Ferry.
Police officers in Berlin hope the program will bridge the gap and they're looking forward to improving it and using it in the field.
Chief Downing adds, "We’re smart enough to know that we don’t know everything. And again any other ways to use this form or any ways to enhance it, we tell anyone in the community,a ny of our partners out there to say hey you might want to add this to the form or you might wanna go ahead and put it on this venue or that."
Residents who wish to participate only need to fill out a form and include a picture that can be found on their website.
Ferry tells 47 ABC that some forms are already being sent to those that go to the developmental center.
Berlin isn't the first city to roll out this program on Delmarva. Delaware actually has a similar program called SMART911 that started back in 2004, it is run by the County Emergency Operations Centers.