EDINA, Minn. (KMSP) - Some people who attended the Autism Society of Minnesota's Steps of Hope walk received a special gift—a year's membership to an app designed to help officers have better encounters with vulnerable children and adults.
In just a matter of months, several law enforcement agencies have signed up to use the Vitals app, Vitals standing for Vulnerable Individuals Technology-assisted Location Services.
It allows people with special needs, or their caregivers, to create a profile with specific details about the person's condition. The members carry a special card with them. When an officer comes within 60 feet, their profile pops up on the officer's phone, allowing police to know exactly with whom they’re working.
“We started off in St. Paul in August and we knew we had a great idea, but you know, as we've introduced to other cities, we continue to get calls, we continue to get e-mails,” said Stan Alleyne, chief of communications and partnerships for Vitals.
Along with cities like New Brighton and Roseville, agencies in Crow Wing County, Dakota County and Plymouth will soon be joining the service.
The Autism Society of Minnesota is a founding partner of Vitals and has worked to spread awareness about the app.
“It's really nice to work with a group that provides real solutions for law enforcement who are looking for that individualized information, while still protecting the dignity and respect of people with other needs,” said Ellie Wilson, Executive Director of the Autism Society of Minnesota. “I think everyone is responding to a pretty exciting idea, which is one that works for all those different partners at the table.”
And it's not just autism. The app also can also help people with conditions like ADHD, dementia and schizophrenia.
“Law enforcement, they have struggled with people who have mental health conditions,” Alleyne said. “It's a struggle, so we feel like this is our part. There's a way to give them this information—there's a way to respond differently in an emergency situation and we feel we have one of the answers to that.”
Allyene said there has been interest from across the country in the app, but they want to try to perfect the system before taking it beyond Minnesota.
Click here for more information about the app.