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State police unveil informational card for people with autism

Pennsylvania State Police on June 24 encouraged individuals with autism to take advantage of a free safety resource designed to enhance their interactions with law enforcement officers.

The PSP has officially started to distribute an informational card that should be carried by people with autism and presented during any encounter with police, a news release states.

“Behaviors associated with autism can cause barriers to effective communication. This card can be presented to reduce those barriers,” Col. Christopher Paris, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police said.

“When an officer is made aware a person has autism, they can respond accordingly, resulting in a safer interaction for everyone involved.”

The informational cards alert law enforcement officers that the individual has autism and therefore may be nonverbal, bothered by loud noises, hypersensitive to touch, and unresponsive to commands or questions.

The officers are directed to be patient, use a calm and direct voice, and keep their questions and commands simple.

Paris and Gov. Josh Shapiro met with advocates to talk about how law enforcement can better serve individuals with autism.

PSP’s Office of Community Engagement developed the informational card, which is available on the Safety Resources page of PSP’s website.

Individuals may print the card from the website and carry it in a wallet, or they can choose to save it on their phone.

Troopers will distribute the cards at public community events.

The PSP encourages individuals with autism to present the informational card during interactions with any police officer.

The officer does not need to be a Pennsylvania state trooper.

The Shapiro Administration is working across agencies to provide resources to Pennsylvanians in the intellectual disabilities and autism community, strengthen mental health parity, and improve access to care in Pennsylvania.

Shapiro’s 2024-25 budget proposal, which has received bipartisan support, includes a major investment in the intellectual disability and autism community and would invest $483 million in federal and state funding to increase wages for home and community-based service providers.

Shapiro announced late last year that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services would re-examine rates earlier than required to better support home and community-based service providers and the direct support professionals who dedicate their careers to helping Pennsylvanians with ID/A.

In addition, service providers also received a one-time supplemental payment in June to assist with workforce recruitment and retention.

Earlier this year, Shapiro directed DHS to immediately release additional program capacity to counties, which will allow an additional 1,650 Pennsylvanians to receive services this year.

The 2024-25 proposed budget seeks to build on this by investing $78 million in federal and state funds to serve an additional 1,500 Pennsylvanians in the next fiscal year.

Shapiro and the Pennsylvania Insurance Department also announced last November that the Shapiro Administration will require all commercial insurers to meet their obligations under Pennsylvania law to provide coverage for autism benefits.

For more information on the Pennsylvania State Police, visit psp.pa.gov.