KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
December 12, 2020
By Natalie Cook Clark
The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office launched a program aimed to help residents with cognitive disabilities such as autism, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Down Syndrome. The “Take Me Home” initiative help police officers to better understand and communicate with these residents.
Database Designed to Inform Officers How to Interact with Individuals
“Take Me Home” is a database that was originally developed by the Pensacola Police Department to help identify individuals who are at risk for wandering off and may interact differently with an officer due to a cognitive disability.
Easy Online Registration
Families can easily register an individual now online. Requirements include submitting a current picture, demographic information, and caregiver contact information.
“Any program like this helps,” says Katy mom and Fort Bend County resident, Kristin Walker. “It’s a comfort that they want to train and better understand.”
Walker’s 15-year-old son has autism and has wondered off before. “It was terrifying,” says Walker. “I called 911 and they were able to find him quickly.”
In a case like that, the “Take Me Home” program hopes to help. If an individual is registered in the program, officers can look for their information using their physical description and be aware of their special needs.
Sergeant Matthew Hricko has been with the department for 14 years and understands the importance of such a program.
“I used to babysit a boy and he was non-verbal and on the spectrum,” says Sgt. Hricko.
Stephen, the boy Hricko used to watch, is now 29-years-old. He was the first individual to register for the “Take Me Home” program.
“It just takes someone taking a nap or turning their back for a moment and then someone can be out, roaming the streets,” says Sgt. Hricko.
He worked closely with many agencies and the Fort Bend County IT to make this program happen.
“IT is great and worked really hard to make this come together,” says Sgt. Hricko. “They even got the funding of $90,000.”
The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with Hope for Three Autism Advocates, The Arc of Fort Bend County, Alzheimer’s Association Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter and GiGi’s Playhouse to help identify residents who can benefit from this program.
A Peace of Mind
“It has taken 15 long months to launch this program,” said Sheriff Troy Nehls. “I commend Sergeant Hricko for putting the time and effort to make sure ‘Take Me Home’ was incorporated into FBCSO. He has helped bring peace of mind to many Fort Bend County families.”
“My fear is when he’s older and driving,” says Walker. “Police may not understand how he responds.”
“This program is a great resource for law enforcement and the citizens of Fort Bend County,” said Sergeant Matthew Hricko. “It’s an additional tool that will enable deputies to properly interact with all individuals, despite what challenges they may have.”
All officers are required to take mental health training as part of the curriculum. Now, the “Take Me Home” program will be included. Partnered agencies are assisting with additional training.
“This is a great beginning,” says Sgt. Hricko. “We hope to be able to expand this program to continue to make it bigger and better.”
Learn more and register for “Take Me Home” here.