Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - Blair Craw­ford

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.


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