Special Needs Advisory Board seeks to protect residents

Community By David Snelling, Reporter Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Special Needs Advisory Board seeks to protect residents

     A Special Needs Registry to identify Miami Lakes residents with neurological illnesses or disabilities and which may ease interactions with police could be launched early next year.

     Participation would be voluntary.

     Bracelets may be offered to children or adults who have autism, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions.

     “It prepares officers when they are called to the homes, especially for emergencies,” said Vivian Levy, chair of the Miami Lakes Special Needs Advisory Board. “The more you know, the better you can manage the situation.”

     There may be about 2,450 town residents who could participate in the program, which is being modelled on one in Pembroke Pines.

     Miami-Dade Police will compile and keep track of a list of participants.

     Law enforcement would gather information about a person that includes home addresses, health conditions, prescriptions and next of kin.

    Levy said the number of residents with special needs was based on a study, but the number may have changed over the years.

      Levy said her son Ryan, 16, who was diagnosed with autism, would benefit from the program once it begins.

     Families may call police if their loved ones wander from home or if they are not behaving appropriately.

     And those individuals may not respond to officers or may not be able to speak.

     The bracelets could make a big difference during those encounters, according to Levy.

     “My son’s communication skills are not the best,” she said.  “If someone calls the police on people with special needs, the officers will see the bracelets and know they are in the program.”

     Miami-Dade Police Sgt. George Soto is studying the project and said it’s in the early stages.

     He said he and his officers were planning to talk with Pembroke Pines Police to learn more about its program and help the board develop its own registry.

     Levy said Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid tasked the board with researching the project after he learned about Pembroke Pines’ registry.

     It’s the latest effort by the town to help residents with special needs live normal lives and to keep them safe.

     Miami Lakes teamed up with Florida International University’s Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center in 2019 to conduct a series of studies with residents.

     The goal was to determine the types of services the town could provide.

     Among the findings: provide a safe place for people with special needs; raise community awareness and offer training and jobs.

     The registry is expected to be discussed during the next Special Needs Advisory Board meeting and eventually presented during a future town council meeting.

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