Sheriff: Responding to special cognitive needs
Last week, I had the privilege to speak to the Caring and Sharing family support group in Luxemburg. This is a group of caregivers who get together to provide support and resources to those who are caring for loved ones with special cognitive needs. This was truly a great experience just to be in their presence as there were so many unique personalities and you could immediately see the love and patience that is shown not just to their own family members but to each other as a support group.
I spoke about our need as law enforcement to be part of the support network as well, in that we may be called to respond in the event that a loved one may be going through crisis but may not be able to effectively communicate either with their family as well as with first responders. We have had families request that we turn off our sirens as we get close to the residence, or that a certain officer respond if possible as there is already a positive relationship with that officer. In all cases we will do what we can to facilitate these special requests.
We discussed the training that all law enforcement has been provided in the CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) discipline. This training has provided law enforcement with various approach considerations when dealing with those in mental health crisis. Historically, if law enforcement approached someone who did not immediately respond to us, we considered it a sign of resistance as belligerence is assumed to be attributed to suspicious behavior or intoxication. We now know that there could be the possibility that the individual may not be able to respond as we would like because of some psychological limitation, long-term disability or short-term crisis.
We discussed how families can partner with law enforcement to provide information in advance if their loved one has cognitive issues which will allow law enforcement to approach and interact in an appropriate manner which and result in a positive outcome. For too many years, our response to mental health crisis was very similar to our response to criminal behavior. The two could not be further apart. We appreciate the collaboration we have with families of those who have special cognitive needs and will continue to work alongside them.
We also discussed the issue of vehicle accidents where the caregiver might not be able to communicate the needs of their loved ones and some ways to give first responders the vital information they might need at the time of an incident to provide care. Some of the ideas centered around making up information cards and securing them to seatbelts or somewhere in close proximity to them so that even if no one is able to speak for them, those who respond would have a quick reference for follow up care and emergency contacts.
We are very fortunate to have groups such as this that meet right here in Kewaunee County to provide not only resources or share ideas and experiences, but more importantly to provide moral support and encouragement.
Matt Joski is sheriff of Kewaunee County.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Sheriff: Responding to special cognitive needs