New tool helps police reunite non-verbal residents with families in Linn County

Home Again CR News Conference

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Police Department and Linn County Sheriff’s Office have a new tool to help reunite residents with autism, Alzheimer’s disease and other developmental disabilities with their loved ones or guardians.

The agencies, along with the City of Cedar Rapids’ Information Technology Department, Tanager Place and the Alzheimer’s Association East Central Iowa Chapter on Tuesday unveiled the Home Again CR program during a conference at the Cedar Rapids Police Department. The voluntary program allows the family or guardians of those with developmental disabilities to enter identifying information so that if the police encounter them in an emergency situation, they can identify them and get them back home.

“I think by combining all of the partnerships, this product will save someone’s life,” said Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman. “These persons are the most vulnerable of our citizens. To be able to take care of them is really the underlying principal of ‘To Serve and Protect.’ ”

The catalyst for the program was a call Cedar Rapids Police Officer Anne Deutmeyer responded to in northeast Cedar Rapids. Deutmeyer said a young boy was found by a woman, but he was non-verbal and authorities were unable to identify him or his family.

“I just was at a loss for how I can reunite this boy with his family,” Deutmeyer said. “I just started asking questions about how we can better identify individuals so we can get them home safely.”

Sunshine McDonald, a GIS data analyst for the city of Cedar Rapids, demonstrated how the voluntary program works. Users enter data about the individual such as name, age, race, distinguishing characteristics, their functioning level and other identifying information. A photo can also be uploaded along with a location of their residence.

“You can use this on anything — your iPad, smartphone or home computer,” McDonald said. “It will work on any device.”

If police find an individual suffering from a developmental disability, they can then access this information and — if they are registered — find their home.

Blake Stephenson, a clinic therapist and behavior analyst at Tanager Place, said parents of children with autism and other developmental disorders often express concerns about their children wandering off and not being able to locate them.

“The Home Again CR program really does a good job of addressing these parents’ concerns,” Stephenson said.

Nazar Osman is one of those thankful parents. He said his daughter Randa, a 9-year-old who is autistic and non-verbal, has a knack for getting out of the home. On three occasions, she’s been found by police and brought up.

“The Cedar Rapids Police Department did a really good job,” Osman said. “I really thank them.”

Registration information is available on the Cedar Rapids Police Department website at www.cedar-rapids.org/police.

Editors note:  This article was originally published online at thegazette.com by Lee Herminston on July 19th.  You can find the article here.

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