Bexar County Program Helps People With Disabilities Interact With First Responders
The Bexar County Sheriff's office is launching a new safety awareness program to assist people with special needs when interacting with law enforcement or emergency responders.
Four different stickers will help highlight four different disabilities, including autism , diabetes, is deaf, or has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The stickers, which are the size of a bumper sticker, also say the occupant may not respond to verbal commands and feature a sheriff’s office shield logo.
The stickers are about the size of bumper stickers and can go on homes or vehicles.
“We’re using these stickers as way to let first responders know as they’re approaching a vehicle or even approaching the front door of a house that there may be somebody that’s got some health needs in there that may present an issue and we’re making everybody aware to keep everybody safe,” Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said.
For example, Salazar said the sticker will be helpful if someone with diabetes experiences a low blood sugar attack while driving, which could be mistaken for being under the influence of alcohol.
“I’ve seen and heard horror stories of situation that went really, really bad where may have assumed somebody was drunk when they really were diabetic, and this is just more step that we take,” he said. “We do a lot of training in regard to that, to recognition, but this sticker is right there — it’s in your face during a traffic stop.”
Pamela Allen is the parent of a 23-year-old son with autism. She said, in one instance, her family had visited her son when she was not home.
“They went and picked up a few things that they needed and my granddaughter decided she was going to do something that she learned at school and that was dial 911. As she did that, she went and left the receiver off and they left.”
Allen said police arrived and her son hid in the closed not knowing what was happening. He called Allen upset and scared and asked her what he should do. She told him to leave the closet with the phone on speaker.
“As he goes downstairs I said, ‘Put your hand in the air sweetheart and let me just yell,’” she said.
Allen says she yelled over the speaker to deputies that her son has autism, and was too scared to speak with them. A deputy took the phone and was able to speak with Allen.
Allen praised the start of the program, saying it would help reduce misunderstandings.
“What these stickers would be able to do is prevent any mishap,” Allen said. “This is going to identify someone who cannot communicate effectively; this is going to help the occupant in that home.”
The sheriff’s office printed about 4,000 stickers to test out the program at a cost of about $2,500, using money from asset forfeiture funds.
The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation will help fund future sticker purchases.
“This is a compelling issue in our community; we all have too many close calls; we even have some horror stories were things go badly,” Kronkosky Managing Director Tullos Wells said.
Salazar said it was unclear if any other law enforcement agency in Texas was providing this same service. Currently, no other law enforcement agency in Bexar County is offering it and Salazar said the sheriff’s office would be open and able to help others start a similar program. He also said stickers for other ailments could potentially be created.
The stickers are free and available at the county’s two sheriff substations: On the Northeast side at8794 NE Loop 1604 in Converse and the West Patrol Substation on Cognon Road.
Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules