Yesterday, the Southborough Police Department announced a new, “Person At Risk” program. The intent is to make the SPD aware of information that may help officers de-escalate a situation with a resident with certain conditions, or more quickly find someone prone to wander from safety.
According to the announcement, the department has been working with members of the community to develop the program. A Facebook post promotes that the program is expected to “create a safer and more positive experience for those who seek help in locating and/or interacting with a person who is at-risk within the community.”
Conditions that fall under the “at Risk” umbrella include Autism, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, or other memory-related issues. The form allows family members/caregivers to inform police about the person’s fears/sensitivities
The form includes sections to share information about hazards near a home, the person’s means of communicating, and any fears, sensitivities, and means of comfort.
Based on a question in the comments, I solicited more information from the SPD about how the program was developed. Scroll to the bottom for that update.
Below is the full announcement from the Town’s website:
The Southborough Police Department is now offering a “Person At Risk” program to members of the Southborough community. The program will be dedicated to those who have specific conditions, such as Autism, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, or other memory-related issues. Conditions that place them at risk of wandering from the safety of their caregiver(s) or contribute to them acting out (physically) at home, school, or other community locations.
Caregivers or family members of a person at risk can provide identifying information (including a photo) for these individuals, by utilizing the “Person At Risk” information form (see link to PDF form below). We request that you provide specific information that could be helpful in finding and/or de-escalating a situation with a person at risk.
Our SPD dispatchers and officers will have access to the Person at Risk forms in our secure dispatch area. If an SPD officer(s) is called to respond to an incident that involves a person at risk, this important information will be available to them to assist with handling the situation.
To register a person at risk with this program, please bring in a completed “Person At Risk” information form and a recent picture to the Southborough Police Department (located at 32 Cordaville Road, Southborough, MA. 01772). You can complete the form online using the fillable PDF, and then either mail (with a picture) or email (as an attachment) to our Business Administrator, Cindy McLeod, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To open the form, click here.
Updated (6/30/22 8:25 am): Following up on a question in the comments, I asked acting Chief Ryan Newell if he could share more information about the community members they worked with to develop the program. He explained:
I met with and worked together with Pam LeFrancois and Cindy Henderson-Beard from the Senior Center. We all agreed that something needed to be put in place to help protect our seniors who suffer from memory-loss conditions. When I began researching a program that we could put in place, I found that Hopkinton Police already had an existing program that covered both seniors with memory-loss conditions and individuals with Autism. This at-risk type program was perfect, because we (at the SPD) had also been receiving requests from parents of children or adults with autism, to have something in place for officers responding to their home if called. Their concerns ranged from their autistic loved one’s reaction to the police presence in their home; not complying with responding officer’s commands; response to sirens or cruiser lights; etc. This at-risk program will be a helpful tool for care-givers, responding officers, and those members of our community who are living with these conditions. I reached out to Hopkinton PD to learn more information about the program, and they provided me with what we would need to get it started in our town.
The program is 100 % voluntary, and will be a resource available to those who need it. Care-givers can decide what information they would want to share and what information would be the most helpful to responding officers.
While this may work for some families, it may not for others. Regardless, no family should feel obligated in any way to offer up private or legally protected medical information (see HIPAA) to any database. Private medical information requires specific privacy treatment and protections by law. This information is protected by law for good reasons. Families should consult their medical and legal professionals first. Families should understand unintended consequences, if any. Beth, the article cites the department as working with “members of the community.” Who is the department working with as mentioned above? Thank you.
I reached out to Acting Chief Ryan Newell. He responded:
Richard, I feel that police are trying to do a good thing. It’s a great idea. If my grandfather has Alzheimer’s and is at risk to wonder away from our home, it would be extremely time saving and life saving if the police department already had his information on file if he went missing. I’m not worried about HIPPA if my grandfather wondered away. I would be more concerned with finding him.
It is sad that Richard is trying to vilify something that is a useful, needed, and helpful tool for those at risk individuals. There is nothing that says to have to divulge anything, it is voluntary. However, if Richard has somebody at risk and the police show up and something goes wrong I am willing to bet he would be the first person to gather lawyers to fight the injustice. This is an amazing. VOLUNTARY program. If you don’t take part in it, that is your choice, but you can’t have it both ways and later cry wolf because you didn’t want to make officials aware of a situation in your home. The police in our town are very professional. I am not sure what “unintended circumstances” Richard seems to think would happen but I think the comment is ridiculous. Again the program is voluntary but if something happens to your loved one because of your inaction, there is nobody to blame but yourself. Don’t put down a program that is helpful to so many people in the community because you are paranoid.
Thank you to SPD and Acting Chief Newell for meeting with the Senior Center staff and divising a program that will help so many people in the long run. I for one appreciate your efforts and look forward to many more great programs to come. Your work and effort are certainly appreciated.
I don’t think that it’s fair to call Richard’s comment as villifying the police.
There may be an implicit criticism in the concerns raised. But advising readers to check with professionals about what information is appropriate to share and asking questions about what working with community members means isn’t an accusation of wrongdoing.
But in case that comes off as agreeing with Richard’s comment – I was happy to see the SPD is offering and promoting this voluntary option.
It is amazing how crazy some of these spin comments are, like resident. To each his own. Some parents don’t want to go public with medical information due to the prejudices that can go along with future employment, outside misperceptions or the simple fact that medical conditions can change over time.
Not sure why anyone would call the police on a situation involving autism, unless lost? However, any vital information can also be related at the time of an incident.