Registry seeks to keep those on spectrum safe |

Registry seeks to keep those on spectrum safe

Staff Reports

In honor of Autism Awareness month, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will display blue ribbons on their patrol car antennas for the month of April to actively participate in increasing autism awareness in the community. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. This is the second year the recognition program has been available in Douglas County. Last year the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office only registered four participants and is hoping for more as the public awareness for this amazing program reaches those in need.

Last year, Douglas County resident Carly Tomassi registered her son Max who has autism. Shortly after, Max left his safe space, something typical of those on the autism spectrum. A resident found Max and called 911.

“The first responders had all the information about Max, all the tools that might help him and information about what might scare him,” Tomassi said. “The recognition did exactly what it was supposed to do and saved Max from ultimately a life-threatening situation.”

Family members and caregivers may register people with autism with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. The registration form includes a photo, physical description, emergency contact information, and any information that would assist officers with de-escalation techniques. Officers can access this information in their dispatch system.

The information will assist officers with early recognition, parent-guardian reunification and overall safety. In addition, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will provide an identification card that people with autism can present during a police encounter. The ID card will identify the individual as a person with autism and include their emergency contact information.

By taking a proactive approach, our goal is to establish relationships with people on the autism spectrum, their family members, and caregivers. An active partnership will help reduce the anxiety people with autism experience with everyday police encounters and during critical incidents. This program also will help improve police officer awareness and response to people with autism.

Anyone can register their family member for the Autism Recognition Alert Program. Contact Sgt. Nadine Chrzanowski at 775-782-9069 for information or visit the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office open house May 14 and sign up in person.