‘Special Needs Alert Form’ helps Brown County identify people if needed

The form goes to an information database
A lead 911 dispatcher with an autistic son created the database in 2018. It identified a 6-year-old boy found wandering in a parking ramp over the weekend.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 4:16 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2023 at 5:36 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A 25-year-old Green Bay woman is facing criminal charges, accused of leaving her children alone over the weekend. Police say while she went out drinking, her son was found wandering in a downtown parking ramp. Police used a special database to discover the child is non-verbal and has special needs.

Now police are encouraging people to fill out a Brown County special needs alert form for their loved ones. The system was created in 2018 to protect those with special needs in the community and the safety of first responders who may care for them.

The form includes space to enter a physical description, emergency contacts, medical diagnosis, preferred communication method, and other relevant information about the person.

Katie Hendrickson, the lead telecom at the Brown County 911 dispatch center. She’s also the mother of a son with autism and says his safety is her first priority.

“There are some things I wanted people to know about him. If somebody had to come to my house, if his brother wasn’t there, if his dad wasn’t there, if it was just me and him and I wasn’t able to help him. These are the kinds of things that will help you get the information you need from him,” Hendrickson said.

She created the Special Needs Alert Form in 2018 to protect children and adults with special needs in the community and ensure the safety of first responders caring for them.

“For my son, he doesn’t really have a sense of danger, so it’s just something for the first responders to keep an eye on,” Hendrickson said.

A link to fill out the form is available on the official Brown County website.

Why is this information important to share with law enforcement? Kerry Hoops, the regional clinical director at Wisconsin Early Autism Project in Green Bay, says it helps reduce stressful situations and keeps those with special needs safe.

“I think the most common times I’ve seen it beneficial is for those children who are eloping -- who are leaving their home -- and then they don’t know how to communicate that information to get back,” Hoops said.

The database has been around for 5 years for families of kids and adults with special needs