The Blue Springs Police Department is working on implementing a new program to help make sure special-needs individuals make it home safely when separated from their loved ones.
Blue Springs Detective Kate Tipton said the program will use a new report-writing system to centralize information, making responding to incidents such as a missing individual more efficient.
Tipton, who is the Crisis Intervention Team coordinator for the Police Department, said the Take Me Home program began in Florida and has taken off in several parts of the country. As the Mid-America CIT co-chair, Tipton head about the project from another coordinator and was inspired to bring it to Blue Springs.
The program works by families volunteering photos, emergency contacts and other important information regarding loved ones with special needs who tend to wander. That can cut down on the time it takes officers to gather information while responding.
“When you have people that are nonverbal or have tendencies to wander away from their families, this gives police an upper hand with a proactive approach,” Tipton said, explaining that when an individual with special needs such as autism or dementia wanders away from their family, they are often racing against the clock to make sure they find their way home safely.
“A lot of time when they have special needs, autism especially, they don’t have a sense of personal safety,” Tipton said. “So the tendency is to wander into traffic or to large bodies of water. We’re trying to eliminate some of the time that would be used gathering information.”
Tipton said the program has seen success in areas where it has already been implemented, and is set to go live in Blue Springs mid-April when the department begins using a new report writing system.
This new system, according to Tipton, will increase efficiency across the entire department. Currently, information of different sorts, such as photos and reports, are kept on separate systems, requiring staff to make several different stops to get everything they need.
“If there were to be an elderly person that wanders away,” Tipton explained, “dispatchers would receive that person’s information, they would get her name and immediately send it out to officers before they even responded to the scene.”
Tipton said police will be visiting the school district and area nursing homes to provide information on the Take Me Home program. Family members who wish to register a loved one may do so on the city’s website or fill out a paper form if they cannot access a computer.