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Community Policing Podcast Highlights Autism Awareness Month

In the latest installment of Community Policing Bloomfield Township Police Chief James Gallagher guided an impactful discussion to bring awareness to April as “Autism Awareness Month.” His guests were:
Hillary Nusbaum – Co-Responder Clinician for Oakland Community Health Network. Hillary serves the Township, along with the City of Rochester, Auburn Hills and Birmingham to assist with first responder calls tied to mental health crises.

Wendy Ernzen - a mother to an adult daughter with autism and bipolar disorder. Wendy hosts her own podcast, Let's Plant Houses, which delves into the profound experiences of families who daily make life-changing decisions, planting the roots of their homes every day.
Wendy shared her positive experience that involved contacting BTPD for assistance with care for her daughter in June of 2022. Wendy’s daughter was dealing with an emotional crisis. This event was the culmination of a few episodes of anger and aggression which was now “spilling into the community.”
The officers that arrived, took their time to get as much information as possible and see how they could best aid. According to Wendy, the officers took turns getting to know her daughter through her stuffed animal collection. She explained, “It’s all about creating trust and focusing on communication…trying to find the right language, finding commonality.” Taking this time to connect over pop culture characters allowed the officers to get to know Wendy’s daughter and have Wendy’s daughter see these officers as friendly individuals.
After almost an hour, the officers were able to create a relationship with Wendy’s daughter and were able to assist in getting her checked into the local hospital for care. Wendy expressed gratitude in the work of the officers, “I felt it was as good as it could have been.”
Chief Gallagher spoke about the initial perceived threat by the arrival of police officers when dealing with autistic individuals. “Officers show up wearing uniforms, wearing shiny badges, different colors and a radio that’s making noise – it’s a lot to handle from a sensory aspect.” He also spoke of the important role played by care givers in these situations. “We want to partner with the parents in these situations to provide stability.”
Adding to the conversation about the officers’ role, Hillary recently stated, “officers who are Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT) are specifically trained to de-escalate using active-listening skills, being curious, and asking citizens "how they can help," when they are in a crisis. CIT officers are quite skilled at slowing down the scene, and in that way, very much de-escalating the situation.” She also suggested, “parents, let dispatch know what you can. The more information that you can provide, the better it will be.”
Wendy spoke about the importance for the parents to be proactive before any incidents transpire. “It’s about starting relationships now, with the police and with your school. It’s about creating plans and being prepared. It’s about doing the thinking and legwork in advance.”
As far as options on who to reach out to, Chief Gallagher added, “you have a choice. You can contact the non-emergency number (248-433-7755), if that works. If you feel the need, call 911. There is no wrong answer, the same personnel answer both lines and will provide help.”
In conclusion, there are also a number of resources that can be utilized for assistance with advice, planning and being proactive as a parent of child with autism. They include The Autism Alliance of Michigan, Easter Seals of Michigan and The Arc of Northwest Wayne County. 
The Arc even offers the After I'm Gone Program, which guides families who need help with a child or adult with a disability in planning for their future when they are no longer able to provide care.
This April, and beyond, make a pledge to learn more about autism and get past the misconceptions. And if you care for someone with autism, avail yourself to the numerous resources and community around you. As Wendy said in the episode, it’s about “finding commonality.”


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