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Corbin Police Dept. participates in autism training for first responders

Times-Tribune - 2/16/2020

Feb. 16--CORBIN -- Local law enforcement has joined many other agencies across both the state and nation as they recently participated in autism training for first responders.

Corbin Police Chief Rusty Hedrick said his department was contacted by Rebecca Patten, the regional preparedness coordinator with the Department for Public Health in London, about a training opportunity to educate first responders on the subject. The CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network estimates 1 in 59 children identify with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and it occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

Kentucky Autism Training Center (KATC) Family Field Training Coordinator Heidi Cooley-Cook traveled from Louisville to Corbin in November to train officers with the Corbin Police Department.

The Kentucky Autism Training Center began providing autism and the first responder training as approved by the KentuckyBoard of Emergency Medical Services in 2017. The trainings were delivered in-person and reached over 700 individuals in the first year.

Cooley-Cook's work with autistic individuals quickly developed into a passion and led her to work as an in-home behavior interventionist for several families and their children with autism. She has over 15 years of experience working with individuals with disabilities and their families in various capacities including direct support, job coach, case manager, behavior interventionist and advocate.

The goal is to have every community first responder prepared to respond to individuals with unique needs to the best of their ability. The Corbin Police Department wants to provide care to individuals with autism in a way that will be best suited to that individual and family. They want to reconnect individuals who may wander or get lost with their caregivers as quickly as possible and put an end to death/harm due to wandering on their own.

"One topic mentioned was drowning in the trainings because some individuals with autism do not sense danger the same way we do," said Hedrick. "Understanding autism and some of the generalizations help assists police, fire, EMS etc. to both recognize and provide unique care to that individual that will benefit both the responder and the individual requiring assistance."

Corbin Mayor Suzie Razmus is pleased with the steps taken by the city's department to further their education.

"I am grateful for the leadership of Corbin Police Chief Rusty Hedrick and the the willingness of his department to always be ready to learn new methods and procedures to ensure public safety," said Razmus. "Autism is becoming more prevalent in our area. If our police officers are unaware of a diagnosis, this could lead to a dangerous situation for everyone involved."

Hedrick said the city is currently waiting on an overhaul of the dispatch center.

"One of our goals once it is complete is to have a time period set aside for families with individuals who may have autism to come to the police department and have that information integrated into our system," added Hedrick. "That way when we are responding to a call, the information that someone with a special need lives at that address. In addition to the information being in the CAD, we would like to have some sort of sticker or identifier, that they could place on their vehicle or the front door of their residence."

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