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Public Policy Update

Safe Interactions Act and Health-services Emergency Logistics Program (HELP) Act introduced in Congress 

U.S. Senator Bob Casey has launched an initiative to address racial justice and law enforcement interactions with people with disabilities, including autism. Two bills have been introduced – the Safe Interactions Act and the Human-services Emergency Logistic Program (HELP) Act – which are intended to provide robust training to law enforcement on interacting with people with disabilities and reduce calls to 9-1-1 call systems regarding non-criminal emergencies. (Bills will be reintroduced when the next Congress is convened in 2021) 

The Safe Interactions Act would set national requirements for law enforcement training and support funding for:   

  • Partnerships between nonprofit disability organizations and law enforcement agencies. 
  • Inclusion of self-advocates in the development and implementation of trainings, including a diverse group of disability types including intellectual and developmental, mental health, sensory and/or physical. 
  • A minimum of eight hours of training for new law enforcement officers, with four hours involving interactive sessions led by trainers with disabilities.
  • The establishment of an advisory council, chaired by a person with a disability, to oversee the training program development and implementation.

 

The HELP Act would divert non-criminal, non-fire and non-medical emergency calls from 9-1-1 systems to state and regional 2-1-1 systems, while providing resources and funding to improve 2-1-1 referral systems. The bill would also create a community oversight system for the 2-1-1 networks. 

ASNC supports the goals of these bills and we encourage you to reach out to Senators Tillis [https://www.tillis.senate.gov/] and Burr [https://www.burr.senate.gov/] and ask for their support of a re-introduced Safe Interactions Act and HELP Act in the coming year.  

 

NC Law Enforcement Training  

North Carolina is fortunate to already have training on behavioral health and developmental issues in place in its Basic Law Enforcement Training. For new officers entering the field, since 2006, a minimum of 25 hours of education on behavioral health and developmental disability issues, including autism, is required. The state of North Carolina also supports Community Intervention Teams (CIT), and training on CIT across the state to encourage safe interactions with individuals with behavioral health needs.  

ASNC is already a partner in voluntary training of law enforcement officers and other first responders, training hundreds of LEOs and first responders a year, with training and education funding from the statefederal government, community foundationsASNC has developed partnerships with the NC Department of Justice, local first responders, and other crisis response organizations to provide information and training on autism across the state.  

More information on autism and safety: www.autismsociety-nc.org/staying-safe

Video: Autism Training for First Responders

 

North Carolina Task Force on Racial Equity in Criminal Justice releases report and recommendations 

While individuals with autism were not the focus of the Task Force [https://ncdoj.gov/trec/], the intersection of disabilities and race was a topic of discussion and several of the recommendations acknowledge the multi-faceted challenges of being a person with a disability and a person who may be subject to race-based discrimination. The report has 125 recommendations for change.

Of particular interest for individuals on the spectrum and their families may be the section on schools. Recommendations 20-23 address changing the role of school resource offices, training SROs, and collecting data on the use of discipline in schools, as well as the recommendations around juvenile justice and the school to prison pipeline.  The entire report has value for those we serve, especially around creating an equitable and responsive justice system, appropriate emergency response, training of court personnel and judges, and updates to training for law enforcement personnel.  

 

If you have questions please contact Jennifer Mahan at jmahan@autismsociety-nc.org.

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