At a morning unveiling ceremony on February 20, the Foundation for Exceptional Children of Suffield (FECS) and the Suffield Police Department kicked off a valuable new community initiative. The newly refurbished meeting room at SPD was packed with enthusiastic supporters to celebrate Project Keep Me Safe.
The project’s community awareness efforts, special training programs and carefully designed new identification cards will help police and other responders communicate with individuals who have special needs. The focus is on those with autism spectrum disorder, but others helped could include those with deafness, and perhaps Alzheimer’s. With the training and the ID cards, a potentially difficult encounter can become a comfortable and efficiently concluded situation.
Identification data in the program will be available in police files and could help in the case of missing persons, as well. Project Keep Me Safe Cards, sealed in plastic and hung on a lanyard (optionally), will be prepared at SPD. The card could include medical information along with the usual ID data, as well as hospital choice and emergency contact.
At the unveiling, First Selectman Melissa Mack, who identified herself as the mother of a special needs child, spoke of the importance of the program and thanked all those who participated in its creation. Rep. Tami Zawistowski and Donna Swira of Suffield by the River, a major contributor to the program, also spoke, with similar commendations. Capt. Christopher McKee opened the event and Chief Richard Brown described the Police Department’s role. He said that the data collection was a key element of the Keep Me Safe program.
Sue Davis and Jill Caron, the two citizen volunteers who created FECS last year, did so after participating in a demanding training program in community improvement activism. They have already arranged training programs and have held fund raisers in support of the FECS work. (Have you seen the FECS T-shirts?) During the “Light It Up Blue Suffield” party on the South Green last spring, First Selectman Mack called them “two mothers who will stop at nothing to keep our children safe.” Jill Caron responded then, “This is only the beginning.” At the “Keep Me Safe” unveiling, Jill said that FECS’s next project will focus on mental health and suicide prevention.