Police establish ‘At Risk’ registry

by Town Reminder

Officers attend crisis training

By Kristin Will

SOUTH HADLEY – Local police officers are adding another tool to their belts for diffusing a heated situation: knowledge.
With its new At Risk registry, the police department is asking residents or those who have South Hadley family members with mental health issues or cognitive disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s or Autism, to submit information about their relative.
If police are called to a residence for a disagreement, a note would appear on the responding officer’s laptop alerting him or her to cues for diffusing the crisis.
“They’ll know what subject this person may be interested in, or, we could start the conversation with, ‘How’d the Red Sox do last night?’ rather than just going in there as a police officer in uniform that might alarm someone,” said South Hadley Police Chief David LaBrie. “We’ll have some disarming techniques we can apply to deescalate the situation and relax the individual.”
The At Risk registry is not limited to those with Alzheimer’s, Autism or other cognitive disorders. “It could be for a number of reasons” a resident might sign up a family member, said LaBrie. The information can be anything officers “might want to be aware of regarding an individual if we come in contact with them,” he said.
Does the loved one wander? Are they triggered by a specific word or sound? Is there a particular communication technique that is most affective? These are the types of details that are immensely helpful to officers.
The basic information provided, including a recent photo, can also be disseminated among emergency personnel if the family member, be it a senior citizen or a child, wanders from home. The personal information is kept confidential among responders.
More recently, LaBrie has noticed a trend in the growing number of calls to which officers respond involving a disagreement between a family member and relative with a cognitive disability.
To enhance their response to such situations, South Hadley police officers are currently being sent to a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team training, funded by the Department of Mental Health.
Officers learn de-escalation skills and how to resolve conflicts involving those with cognitive disabilities and mental health issues. Provided by the Behavior Health Networks, the trainings teach officers to implement skills for reducing the stress of a situation rather than immediately arresting an individual.
To download an At Risk registry application, visit http://www.southhadley.org and click “Town Departments” on the left side of the site. Find and click “Police Department” to access the department’s specific website. There, under “additional links,” click “Person At Risk.” For a more direct link, type http://www.southhadley.org/Pages/SouthHadleyMA_Police/Risk into a browser.
For more information about the At Risk registry, contact Police Chief David LaBrie at (413) 538-8231 ext. 301 or via email at LaBrieD@SouthHadleyPolice.org.