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North Haven, CT: Police equipped to deal with autistic individuals

Jan 19, 2024, NBC Connecticut: North Haven police join Linked Autism Safety Project

“We have a handful of different fidget toys that can be available for the individual to use,” Ashley McClain, of Linked Autism, said.

Out of a small vinyl drawstring backpack, she pulled different types of tools for North Haven police officers responding to calls involving people with autism and special needs.

“We also have a sensory sock. And this you can take out and an individual can kind of cocoon themselves in them to help kind of deescalate in a stressful, high-stress situation," McClain said.

The North Haven police program launched about a month ago in partnership with McClain’s Linked Autism Safety project.

McClain’s father is a first responder. The idea of a non-profit and the organization’s police awareness project came from watching the positive interactions she saw with him and her son, who has autism.

“Back in June, North Branford and I, we kind of launched this idea of a program, and selfishly it was for our community so I could keep my son safe and kids like him,” McClain said.

North Haven is the latest department to answer the call. They’ve created an online form for families to submit information about their loved one, including sensitivities and behaviors in case of an emergency.


“If we get a call to a house that has somebody with special needs, it will actually pop up for our dispatchers and they are able to advise the officers responding, ‘hey you have someone with special needs there,’” North Haven Police Sgt. Antonio DePascale said.

The program also offers training for officers in how to respond and how to use some of the tools inside the bags.

DePascale said they have mental health and other trainings, but nothing like this.

“To get this type of training and to have that bag, the autism bag, is going to be invaluable,” he said.
There are now 10 departments signed up, including Capitol Police along with Madison, East, West and now North Haven Police.


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