An emergency situation can be nerve-racking for anybody, and then there are those who have challenges communicating or who have trouble interacting in stressful times.
For people in and around Allen with cognitive deficits such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism and Down syndrome, the Allen Police Department continues to grow its program, Project H.O.M.E.
This free service collects information such as emergency contacts, basic health information and a photo to help first responders efficiently resolve encounters with people who have special needs.
Deputy Chief Ken Myers said Project H.O.M.E. stemmed from a situation where Allen PD responded to a call about an autistic teen who was not able to communicate his name or contact information.
“Out of that came ‘there’s got to be a better way to do this,’” Myers said. “We knew what the problem was. We just needed a solution. And we were able to use existing resources inside the police department at no cost.”
The information collected through the program is logged into the police records management system so that it’s available to officers on the job.
Myers said it works in three ways – 911 calls made from a Project H.O.M.E. number can be immediately identified; people reported as missing can be found quickly using Project H.O.M.E. information; or people who have been found and are unable to communicate can be identified using enrollee information in the area.
“One of the very first times it was used was an elderly woman with dementia who was at a park and very confused, and once officers were on scene it took us 11 minutes to get ahold of the caregiver and get them en route,” Myers said.
The program began in 2015 and currently has 77 enrollees. To help raise awareness and get more people on the rolls, Allen PD has partnered with Allen-based Dodd Law Offices for an enrollment event from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Allen Police Training Facility, 900 S. Greenville Ave. in Allen.
Attorney Jackie Dodd of Dodd Law Offices assists families of children with special needs.
She recently heard about Project H.O.M.E. from Myers, who contacted her after reading her profile in the Allen American and learning that her son, Travis, has Down syndrome.
Myers encouraged Dodd to enroll Travis in the service, and the partnership was born.
“It was a natural partnership,” Myers said. “She definitely has a passion and is an advocate for persons with special needs. When she heard about the program, she immediately brought her son in.”
Ongoing enrollment is available to people who live in Allen or in cities nearby between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Allen Police Department, 205 W McDermott Drive.
Myers said the next goal is the move enrollment online to allow residents in Allen and surrounding cities to register without coming to the police department.