ST. MARTIN PARISH, La. (KLFY) — The information law enforcement has when you call 911, can sometimes make all the difference. In St. Martin Parish, deputies are asking the community to equip them with tools to assist any special needs citizens.
Anyone resident can request or pick up a Special Needs Registry Form. Two sheets of paper, a picture, and twenty minutes of your time gives deputies vital information when a 911 call is received, immediately linking an address to information like “how to communicate”, “the best method of approach”, and “what not to do?” with a loved one. All questions stem from “What special needs are there?”
St. Martin Parish Sheriff Becket Breaux explained, “As soon as I get the call, there is an alert coming on my computer saying this individual has special needs and this is what it is.”
That is something Kristin Cormier, who has a special needs daughter and works for Autism Society Acadiana, says gives her peace of mind.
She urged, “When you have an emergency situation, time is very, very valuable, and in order to best assist in an emergency situation, having any kind of information that prepares you beforehand could be the difference between life or death.”
Sheriff Breaux said the system helps with missing people, fires, floods, hurricanes, and more. Deputies reach out to the registrants twice a year to check in, verify their information, and update the attached photo if necessary.
News 10 reached out to sheriff’s offices across Acadiana to see how universal the system is and found most departments get special needs information during the emergency response and catalog it then for the future.
St. Landry Parish
St. Landry Parish has a near-identical system for people with special needs. It can be filled out online here.
Lafayette Parish has an officer alert system in place for children with autism. For more information or to fill out the form go here. The information connects to other agencies through the parish 911 dispatch center.
The New Iberia Police Department (NIPD) has a registry for children with autism as well, but their form includes language for children with any condition or disability. You can find NIPD’s CAD notification request form here. However, the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office does not have a registry. News 10 is told they are exploring it. Implementation into their database is a hurdle they are trying to work through.
The Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office (APSO) does not have a special needs registry. Sheriff KP Gibson his agency currently has two programs similar. The “Call a Friend” program is for elderly citizens and a group of volunteers who are also senior citizens come to the sheriff’s office weekly to call and check up on them.
APSO also has a registration for people who are driving and have a medical condition. Deputies supply a decal for their vehicle to make first responders aware of the driver having certain difficulties. “The second program is not very strong as only a few people have registered,” Sheriff Gibson stated.
The Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office does not have a proactive registry, but Sheriff Mike Couvillon assures 911 dispatchers do gather that information during their questioning so that the responding deputy has the information. The agency then keeps that information on file.
Jeff Davis Parish
Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office also does not have a proactive registry. The agency public information officer said deputies do make notes after they respond to a call involving citizens with special needs. That information is recorded for future use.
Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office does not have a proactive special needs registry. Sheriff Charles Guillory said he thinks it is a great idea though. Their agency does welcome calls or visits where people can provide that information and they can manually attach it to an address in their system. They currently do so after or during responding to calls. They also work with the Office of Emergency Preparedness during hurricanes or tornadoes for a list of people to check in with, but not with 911 calls.
St. Mary Parish
St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office does not have a proactive registry. Public Information Officer David Spencer informed News 10, “That information, when gathered through a call to dispatch or on a call by deputies, is kept in our system for future reference. It is a big help to know when deputies are dispatched to a location where a person is known to have a special need.”
St. Martin Parish
If you would like to receive more information or receive a form to enter a loved one into the program, you can contact the St. Martin Parish Public Affairs Division at (337) 394-2619 or you can email Captain Ginny Higgins at email@example.com to receive further information.
Sheriff Breaux said his agency is always looking at how to improve their program and is planning to add a link for the form on their website and find a way to upload pictures instead of physically giving to the agency. Breaux welcomes any questions from law enforcement interested in bringing the program to their citizens.
He said, “If we can be an example for other agencies to follow, that’s what we want because it’s all about public safety.”