OTTAWA POLICE TO HAND OVER AUTISM REGISTRY TO MEDIC ALERT
A decade after establishing a registry for people with autism, Ottawa police are planning to hand off the job to Medic Alert.
The voluntary registry is available to officers who might be called to respond to someone with autism, whose behaviour, whether violent or just unusual, can frequently result in a police encounter. The registry gives officers information on the person’s background, likes and dislikes, unusual behaviour as well as suggestions for the best way to calm him or her.
But that information is only available to Ottawa police, which is why police have chosen to partner with Medic Alert, which has global reach.
“The shortcoming with our internal registry is that it was only available locally,” said Zoye Poulin, a civilian with Ottawa police. “If you travelled to Toronto or Kingston, the information that was housed with us wasn’t easily or readily accessible should your son or daughter wander off.
“The information housed with Medic Alert is international. You could go to Germany and they would have immediate access to the information you provided.”
About 1,200 people are listed on the Ottawa registry, which also includes family contact information and a photo of the individual. Over the next few months, those families will be notified about the switchover. There is a $60 annual administration fee for Medic Alert, but that can be waived or reduced for families that can’t afford it. The Ottawa police registry was free.
Medic Alert will also be in touch with families annually to update information. Families already registered with Ottawa police will get their first year with Medic Alert for free.
“We’ll maintain all our information for a year after the families are notified,” Poulin said. “We’re not going to just delete everything.”
Under the new system, when an officer runs a person’s name, a note will appear to say that person is registered with Medic Alert, which has agreed to let Ottawa police access its information.
“We hear from officers every week who say it’s amazing. It reduces the stress levels when responding to a call that appears to be a dangerous call, but it turns out that it’s not,” Poulin said.
One person on the registry often goes to malls and attracts the attention of security. The person is also extremely sensitive to being touched, which can result in a confrontation.
“Then, all of a sudden, police are involved,” Poulin said. Officers know from the registry the ways they can soothe the person.
“They’ll just say, ‘C’mon, let’s go get a juice,’ and it all calms down.”
For more information on the autism registry, visit ottawapolice.ca or call 236-1222 ext 5011.