Stafford Township residents with medical, mental, physical, psychological or mobility challenges who face emergencies can now rely on first-responders to know just what to do when they arrive. All it takes is enrollment in the Police Department's new Special Needs Registry.

Stafford Twp. Special Needs Registry (Stafford PD)
Stafford Twp. Special Needs Registry (Stafford PD)

The voluntary, confidential, free program is the first of its kind in Ocean County, based on the Monmouth County model that has generated statewide attention for its efficiency and ease of use. Registrants also have access to optional decals for their cars.

Registrants or caregivers complete questionnaires and supply photos and supplemental notes regarding the enrollees' conditions. As an example, police say, if a young autistic child is drawn to shiny objects, it is useful information for first-responders.

Completion of the questionnaire allows police to specially-designate enrollees in their computer-aided dispatch system.

First-responders answering 911 calls are informed by dispatchers that special-needs individuals might be involved. If a crisis develops when someone is driving, the decal affixed to the car is the responding officer's signal to be prepared.

Police suggest that enrollment is ideal for, but not limited to, those who depend on wheelchairs or other mobility aids, autistic individuals, sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder, insulin-dependent diabetics, or victims of severe allergies.

Information entered into the registry remains confidential. Residents can opt out at any time.

Community Policing Officer Christopher Fritz, who took a lead role in developing the Stafford program, underscores the importance of advance knowledge of special conditions when police, fire or medical responders arrive.

"It is important for officers to have this information so that any circumstance involving a resident with special needs ends safely," Fritz said.

"Information is only released and passed on to a first responder who has a need to know," Chief Thomas Dellane added.

"We are stressing this because we want the residents of Stafford to understand that this program serves THEM as much as it assists our officers and first responders. Our number one priority is to provide the highest quality of service to our residents. This program provides us with another tool to increase the quality of the service we provide."

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