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Ripley County Using New Program To Better Handle Special Needs Calls

The new program collects information on special needs children and adults so sheriff's deputies will know how to handle a situation should it arise.

RIPLEY COUNTY, Ind. -- Sheriff's deputies in Ripley County have begun using a new system to help them better respond to residents with special needs.

Sheriff Jeff Cumberworth says that starting this week, his office is implementing a new computer database which deputies can access to have information on anyone with special needs in Ripley County in case they encounter someone with special needs while responding to a call.

"We had an incident about a month ago which involved a child with autism," said Cumberworth on what brought the new program about. "It didn't quite go the way we wanted it to, but after talking with the parents, we came up with a solution."

That solution is the new database called the "CAD System", which gathers names, dates of birth, and details about the kind of special needs someone has so that deputies can better assist them in an emergency.

"We would have all that information listed so that we know how to handle the situation," Cumberworth said. "So if we know that an autistic child we encounter likes dogs, we can make sure we have a K-9 on hand."

Cumberworrth says he and his deputies already get state-mandated training on how to deal with children with autism. However, with this new system, they will be taking it a step further. He says they will be receiving instruction from special needs teachers from Milan High School on how to use "PECS cards," which are used by special needs teachers to communicate with children who have autism.

"It's a card with a picture on it," said Cumberworth. "So if you show them a stop sign, for example, then that is you telling them to stop. With that, they can understand what you're saying they just can't communicate that back to you."

This program is not just for children with autism. Cumberworth says they can also have information handy on the elderly as well, especially for those residents suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia. 

Of course, many might worry this database will be to invasive to your privacy if you live in Ripley County. Sheriff Cumberworth assures you that you are not required to give the sheriff's office any information on a special needs child or adult in your care, and that none of the information gathered is available to the public. 

Cumberworth adds that Ripley Co. firefighters will have access to the database so they, too, can know where to look and what to do should they get a call to a house where a person with special needs lives.

(PHOTO: m-gucci/Thinkstock.)

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