People with autism focus of new program for Tampa’s first responders

How emergency personnel respond to situations involving people with autism is the subject of a new program to be announced Thursday at Tampa police headquarters. [SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times]
How emergency personnel respond to situations involving people with autism is the subject of a new program to be announced Thursday at Tampa police headquarters. [SKIP O'ROURKE | Times]
Published April 5
Updated April 5

TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn and police Chief Brian Dugan will announce Thursday morning a new program to make Tampa’s emergency personnel more responsive to people with autism, disabilities and special needs.

A news conference is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at Tampa police headquarters. In a news release, police noted that April is Autism Awareness Month.

In addition to Buckhorn and Dugan, those who will speak at the conference include parent Holly Marino, police Cpl. Robin Penix, and Mindy Stevens, director of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of South Florida.

The new program is designed to give Tampa’s first responders information to help avoid misunderstandings with people who may have difficulty communicating due to their disability, police said.

In his 2017 State of the City speech, Buckhorn said Tampa would work to make its services more accessible to people with autism.

"Tampa is their home and they deserve every opportunity to enjoy what we have to offer," he said in a July update about progress on the initiative. "The training and additional resources will help provide a level of comfort and accessibility to Tampa families they may not have had before."

Buckhorn declared Tampa an "autism friendly city," saying the city would work with the autism center at USF to train employees, review parks and other city facilities, and more.

Buckhorn said in July he hopes Tampa would soon be designated as "Autism Friendly" by the center.

Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

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