UNION, NJ – When Elsie Mackey worked with the Union Police Department on developing the Special Needs ID Card program, she had no idea she and her son would be the first to benefit from it.
Mackey’s son, twelve-year old Julian, has autism. Earlier this month, his caretaker was running late and Julian entered his home alone after school. The home alarm sounded and Julian was unable to enter the code to disarm it. Police were dispatched to the home.
Because of the Special Needs ID Card Program, officers Sal Valentino and Dan Teleposky knew there was a special needs individual living in the home. When they entered and saw Julian, they knew he was non-verbal and tends to flap his hands. Because of information his mother had previously provided, the officers knew Julian was a ‘runner,' will squeeze the hands and arms of a person he trusts, gets agitated with change, but is not violent.
“Having access to this information really helped us relate to Julian,” said Officer Teleposky. Emergency contact information was also available so the officers could attempt to reach out to parents or other caregivers.
“I am so thankful to these officers,” said Julian’s mom, Elsie. “I can’t stress enough the importance of registering any special needs individuals with the Union Police Department.”
A parent or caregiver can obtain an ID card by providing information about the special needs person such as diagnosis, likes and dislikes, emergency contacts, and triggers. “So far we have about 50 special needs individuals signed up,” said Union Police Sgt. Mike Boll, who spearheaded the project with Mackey.
Boll said the ID cards are delivered personally to the home by a Union police officer so the special needs individual can meet and talk with a police officer.
“This program is designed to help both the special needs individual and the police officers,” said Mackey. “First responders can now get additional information about what they are walking into. Likewise, the special needs individual can feel more secure in their interactions with first responders.”
The ID cards are easily obtained by completing a form on either the Township of Union’s website, uniontownship.com, or via the Township of Union mobile app, where information and a photo can be uploaded from a smartphone.