‘Blue Envelope’ Program Goals To Assist Drivers With Autism

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Officers from all 16 police departments throughout Lehigh County, and Pennsylvania state troopers, stopped by Salisbury Township Police Division on a current Friday afternoon to choose up some particular blue envelopes.

The envelopes weren’t for sending mail, nor have been they for cops, both. They’re for members of the group with autism spectrum dysfunction.

The Blue Envelope program launched final month, a partnership between Lehigh Valley Well being Community and the Lehigh County Chiefs of Police Affiliation. It goals to enhance interactions between folks with autism spectrum dysfunction and police. Underneath this system, drivers with autism are given eponymous blue envelopes containing numerous related details about their situation to maintain of their automobile in order that they will present them to officers throughout site visitors stops, accidents or different conditions.

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Each regulation enforcement company within the county, together with the Bethlehem Police Division, which operates in Lehigh and Northampton counties, in addition to the state police, are taking part in this system.

Autism spectrum dysfunction is a gaggle of neurodevelopmental issues that impacts about 1 in 36 kids and greater than 2% of adults, in keeping with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. Salisbury Township police Chief Donald Sabo stated for most individuals, site visitors stops could be annoying — however for folks with autism, it may be much more so.

Some folks with autism are fully or partially nonverbal; many can also have difficulties speaking, understanding or responding to questions or instructions, and show bodily indicators of being uncomfortable. Individuals with autism additionally are sometimes delicate to brilliant lights and sudden loud noises, make repetitive actions or fidget, have hassle sustaining eye contact and may turn into simply overwhelmed by too many sensory inputs.

On the identical time, folks with autism and different developmental disabilities are seven occasions extra more likely to work together with regulation enforcement officers than different folks. And these interactions can have tragic penalties, with media shops throughout the nation documenting cases the place folks with autism, significantly those that are Black, have been brutalized or killed by police.

Due to this, members of the autism group and their advocates, together with cops with kids with autism, have pushed for efforts that scale back the prospect folks on the spectrum will probably be misunderstood by police and assist police perceive easy methods to determine and discuss to them.

A familial connection is why Sgt. Charles Whitehead with the Salisbury Township Police Division determined to pitch this system to his division after he heard about it.

“A relative of mine is on the autism spectrum, he drives usually. After I first heard about this program, it was one thing I’d by no means thought of earlier than,” Whitehead stated. “One time at a household operate, I introduced this up and his mom stated considered one of her important issues is that if he would ever get stopped how he would react and I clarify this they usually thought it was an important concept.”

The primary Blue Envelope program was began in Connecticut below a state regulation that went into impact in 2020. Since then, Massachusetts and Arizona have adopted legal guidelines establishing their very own model of this system, as have particular person municipalities throughout the nation, together with close by Montgomery County. Whitehead stated he heard about this system when he learn a information article about police in Warren County, N.J. implementing this system.

“I reached out to Chief Scott Robb of Pohatcong Township and he supplied me all of the literature that they’d,” Whitehead stated.

Lehigh County’s variation of this system will operate identically to these carried out elsewhere. Drivers who take part in this system are instructed to maintain the blue envelope of their automobile and through interactions with regulation enforcement to tell the officer they’ve a blue envelope, retrieve it and provides it to the officer.

The entrance of the envelope tells officers whether or not the individual is verbal or nonverbal, and the again has suggestions for police to assist their interplay with the motive force go as easily as attainable. Inside the envelope is a sheet, accessible in each English and Spanish, that gives contact info for individuals who can present medical info or help in interacting with the motive force if vital. This sheet additionally supplies additional clarification to officers about behaviors folks with autism can exhibit that police might interpret as suspicious, defiant or aggressive.

It’s endorsed that drivers in this system preserve their registration and insurance coverage info within the blue envelope together with the knowledge sheet.

Although this system initially was envisioned and as of now has solely been carried out for folks with autism, Ryan Hay, administrator of public security for LVHN, stated they wish to see the way it might be expanded to assist different drivers who might wrestle when speaking with police comparable to people who find themselves deaf, listening to impaired or have anxiousness issues.

“We work very intently with our regulation enforcement companions, supporting them in all our communities,” Hay stated.

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