Cole County Introduces Special Needs Registry
Cole County officials say if there's a chemical spill or an evacuation, residents with a physical or mental handicap may have difficulty maintaining their safety.
According to Patrick Joyce of the Cole County Health Department, "These can be people that can't really function once you take out their support services, once you take out the electricity."
Cole County Health Department has been working with Emergency Management Service for two years on this project after seeing the success of those installed in St. Louis and Audrain County. It just recently got permission to activate the database. However, until the Health Department sets up a registration page for individuals, the database cannot be used.
Once it is uploaded, local organizations who work with special needs individuals can begin submitting names of people to be registered in the database. All who register will have to attend a two-hour training session.
Bill Farr of Emergency Management said in an emergency, the database would be pulled up by emergency services, law enforcement agencies, and fire departments around the county. Phone calls would be made to check up on individuals in the registry, followed by house visits if officials sense certain individuals are in need of help. Once someone has been checked for safety, a green light will appear by his/her name in the database.
"You worry about your child's ability to become independent some day. For any person with special needs, becoming independent has a lot of factors to it, but being able to respond to disasters and the unexpected is critical," said Ginger Luetkemeyer, a parent of a son with Autism.
Cole County follows St. Louis and Audraine as the third Missouri county to have this database.
Luetkemeyer said, "Young children with special needs become young adults with special needs," and it is important "to have community resources to plan for that, such as being able to check on your loved one if you weren't able to be there."