New Downey Bill Establishes Guidelines for Voluntary Emergency Special Needs Registries

OCEAN TOWNSHIP - Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold) is introducing legislation that would direct the Attorney General, in consultation with a county prosecutor who has established and maintained a voluntary special needs registry, to issue guidelines for county prosecutors to use in establishing voluntary special needs registries, which would be used to provide emergency medical care or assistance to a resident, student, or employee in the county who has a special need.

“It’s often easy for an emergency situation to turn south when the person in need of help has a physical, emotional or intellectual/developmental disability,” said Downey. “If we want to minimize the chance of accidents and empower our first responders to provide the best care and support possible, we need to make sure that they have information on any illnesses, challenges, or triggers that the individual may be experiencing. 

“This type of system has already seen great success in Monmouth County under the guidance of Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni, and I am confident that this strictly opt-in, self-reporting program will protect patients’ privacy while providing the information that first responders need to de-escalate conflicts, treat stressed or injured patients with care, or otherwise serve and protect the members of our disability community.”

Any information provided through a county voluntary special needs registry would be provided only to a law enforcement officer who is dispatched to the scene of an emergency situation for the purpose of providing medical care or assistance.

The guidelines shall include, but not be limited to:

  1. Methods that will be used to notify members of the public the benefits and availability of the special needs registry;
  2. Information to be included on the registry that would help a first responder provide appropriate assistance when dispatched to the scene of an emergency situation;
  3. Procedures to maintain confidentiality about the information on the registry; and
  4. A requirement to link the information on the registry to the first responder who is dispatched to the scene of an emergency situation.

“We are thrilled that Assemblywoman Downey’s legislation will assist other counties and municipalities in the creation of their own special needs registries and we are honored that our program is being used as a model,” said Monmouth County Prosecutor Gramiccioni. “We will gladly assist any agency who is interested by sharing our experiences, materials, and the tools we used to launch our program. Since the start of our program in 2016, we have assisted more than 1300 citizens with special needs in building supportive bridges with their local law enforcement agencies to provide meaningful assistance and support in times of need.”

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