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Friday, July 29, 2011

Autism, Alzheimer's, and Wandering

Autism and Alzheimer's are both brain disorders. One becomes evident early in life, while the other tends to occur late in life. There are many other differences between the two, but one important similarity is that both result in wandering, which is a challenge for caregivers and law enforcement. A release from the Boston Police Department:

North Star Personal Alert Program will assist Families and First Responders in Locating Missing Loved Ones with Special Needs such as Alzheimer’s and Autism

Today Mayor Thomas Menino and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis announced a new safety initiative designed to assist local families who are caring for loved ones with special needs and medical complications. Created by the Boston Police Department (BPD), The North Star Personal Alert Program is a voluntary program for parents, guardians or caretakers of children and individuals that may have a tendency to wander or are a flight risk from a specific location, such as their home, school, or nursing home. The program is designed to help individuals that may have a difficult time communicating with First Responders and, in some cases, do not understand the potential danger he/she may be in. The Program is geared towards, but not limited to, children and individuals with Autism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders and individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

“The North Star Personal Alert Program demonstrates our ceaseless commitment to ensuring the safety and security of our community’s more vulnerable residents,” Mayor Menino said. “I strongly encourage the many dedicated and loving families, who care for loved ones with special needs, to utilize this free and voluntary service.”

A comprehensive database compromised of information provided by the parents, legal guardians or caretakers will be used by the BPD and other emergency services in Boston and the surrounding areas as necessary to ensure the welfare of the individual at hand. Through the Boston Police Operations Dispatch System the information parents or guardians provide will be available to Police Dispatchers and Police Officers throughout the City of Boston. The Program, utilizing the photo and information provided, will assist First Responders in identifying and communicating with the person in need to make sure the individual receives the necessary assistance.

“This newly designed initiative is another important tool in our comprehensive approach to providing the citizens of Boston with the most effective and efficient safety services,” said BPD Commissioner Edward Davis. “I hope local families will take full advantage of this program and assist First Responders with the safe return of loved ones.”

When deemed appropriate, the BPD will issue an informational bulletin that may include a photograph and relevant biographical, descriptive and certain individualized information about the missing person. This bulletin may be distributed to both Law Enforcement and private sector security partners in an effort to locate the person.

The Personal Alert can be used two ways:

1. If a child/individual wanders or runs from a location, first and foremost a call should be placed to 911 stating the nature of the emergency and that the child/individual is enrolled in the North Star Personal Alert Program and has wandered or ran from a location.

  1. A Police Officer may observe a child/individual that they perceive to be in need of assistance or at risk and is incapable of communicating; officers can query the system by name or physical description through the Operations Division narrowing it down to the child/individual that they perceive to be at risk or in need of assistance.

Enrollment is easy. The process requires parents/guardians to complete a registration and release form that include biographical, descriptive and certain individualized information such as communication methods and sensory issues; as well as pertinent contact information. NOTE: the child/individual will need to be present at the registration session.

Community members can enroll by contacting the Boston Police Department North Star Program at 617-343-6503 Boston Police will information interested families on upcoming registration drives to be held across the city