St. Paul CARE, stands for
Cops Autism Response Education, is a collaborative effort between parents and the police dealing with people on the autism spectrum. It deals with training officers on how to deal with people on the spectrum, and how to interact with families and the individuals on the spectrum, making sure officers are interacting with those on the spectrum in a non-crisis mode, whether it’s children, adults, so we have a community with police and those on the spectrum. 1 in 59 people are diagnosed with autism. We also know that people with autism, because of their disability, are 7 to 12 times more likely to interface with law enforcement for a multitude of reasons. And what CARE has really done, and what Officer Rob Zink have really done, is that they have found a way to create a multi-faceted response that’s really diligent because it thinks about education, it thinks about that genuine connection with families that really matters, and it thinks about how to prepare ourselves as a community to give these individuals with autism what they deserve which is a safe place to live, and thrive, and to be who they are. It might mean a video, or it might mean a walk, or ice cream, that interacts with that child or adult that is on the autism spectrum that calms them down that feels, “Okay, we’ve had a bad encounter with the police, but they came back. And we had a good walk or we went out to McDonald’s with them, and we could sit down and talk with them on a good on a day that we had no problems.” So that means an awful lot to these kids as a trust level. I have two boys on the autism spectrum. Mainly my younger son, my 13-year old, he ran a lot. So, we would have to call the police quite often. They seemed to deal with him in a different way than they maybe would just a typical,
neurotypical, person. And that’s impressive to me. I think that that is why my son’s not afraid
to get in a cop car. He’s not afraid because he knows that they’re going to help him, and they’re not going to hurt him. Not everybody is the same, and that’s very true for people on the spectrum. What might calm one person down might not calm another. And that’s where a tool like the VITALS app really comes into play and gives law enforcement the information they need to really treat everybody and meet them where they’re at. The VITALS app is a new app designed to help keep people with invisible and visible disabilities and conditions safe specifically when they’re in close proximity with any first responder. Our connection with the CARE program is through Officer Zink and the Autism Society who were both founding partners as we developed the VITALS app. Rob and the other officers of CARE have really endeared themselves to us because it’s become clear that this is a cause that they believe is really important. I don’t think they just do it for their own families or even necessarily for their own city but they do it because they believe in the cause in supporting people with autism throughout their lives wherever they live, in whatever way they can.