CARLISLE, Pa. — For parents like Laura Portillo, whose son is on the autism spectrum, every day can be filled with extra worries.
“He works at Walmart, and he walks everywhere," said Portillo. "He doesn’t drive, so he’s someone who is walking around downtown.”
That’s why, when she heard about the Carlisle Police Department’s new "Handle with Care" online registry, she signed up immediately.
“I didn’t think about it twice," said Portillo. "I logged on and registered my son. I think this is an amazing program.”
The goal of "Handle with Care" is to give the department’s officers knowledge about community members who may have special needs like autism or illnesses like Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
“It’s a way for us to be more familiar with the population we serve,” said Sergeant Dave Miller of the Carlisle Police Department. “It’s a way for officers to get more information so they know how to engage someone who may be out there.”
The online database allows families to upload a photo of a loved one – along with emergency contacts – and any other pertinent information they want police to know if officers were to come in contact with someone in the database.
”We’ll know what some of their triggers may be, what some of their favorite conversations may be, things like that,” said Miller.
According to the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, six out of 10 people living with dementia will wander from home at least once. Its leaders applaud the “Handle with Care” initiative.
”Programs like this – which highlight what they look like, what they prefer to be called, how to connect, places they usually go to – that help speed up that search process are just invaluable,” said Clay Jacobs, the executive director of the Alzheimer's Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter.
For parents like Portillo, the program is an added resource which will help her family immensely.
“They have his photo, they know he has a cat that is his support cat, and having that information just makes me breathe easier,” she said.
Carlisle is one of several local police departments who have launched this type of database in recent weeks. Middletown Borough Police Department and York County Regional Police Department have also set up special needs registries online.
You can register a loved one through the Carlisle Police Department’s “Handle with Care” database on the Cumberland County CRIMEWATCH website.
You can register a loved one through the Middletown Borough Police Department’s “Special Needs Registry” on the Dauphin County CRIMEWATCH website.
You can register a loved one through the York County Regional Police Department’s “Special Needs Registry” on the York County CRIMEWATCH website.