A recent social media post by Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy is gaining attention.
McCarthy posted on the department’s Facebook page about a meeting she’d like to have with caregivers of those with family members on the autism spectrum or a neurodiverse relative. The chief wants to know if there is interest in starting a support group as an alternative to calling 911 for help in certain situations.
“As you look at instances around the country of police officers using force on people on the autism spectrum or who are neurodiverse —there’s a lot of consternation — rightfully so about the way police departments apply force,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy planned a virtual meeting with those who signed up to discuss possible options to create a new support group. The goal is to help those experiencing stressful situations in the home.
“We’re in the really early stages of maybe getting a network of caregivers — who could be that first line of support for one another,” McCarthy said. “We’re just looking at ways to ease that burden in our community.”
“Having an option and having resources for families dealing with neurodiversity that doesn’t involve calling 911 is one of the most vital steps we can take to supporting families,” said Jillian Nelson, a community resource and policy advocate with the Autism Society of Minnesota.
Nelson said families with loved ones on the spectrum often struggle about calling authorities in certain situations out of concern about the encounter, what neighbors might think or the emotional stress on their loved one.
That’s why Nelson supports communities having discussions about trying to find more ways to help families in need.
“I don’t know how it’s going to shake out,” McCarthy said. “I do just want to hear from the community on what those options could look like.”
Anyone wanting to be involved in the community discussion with McCarthy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.