IRMC Partners in Education with Indian River County Sheriff’s Office and the Indian River County School District

Vero Beach, FLA (August 8, 2017) — First responders gain valuable education in preventing dangerous situations with school children as the Indian River Sheriff’s Office School Resource Unit and the Indian River School District Psychological Services worked with Indian River Medical Center behavioral health specialists. The focus was to educate first responders on some signs of autism and other types of behaviors they may encounter on a daily basis in the school system.

The priority of school psychologist and school resource officer in its most basic form is essentially the same – student safety first and foremost. This is where education on each job function is crucial for a successful program where everyone who plays a role is in a safe environment. Dr. Theresa Prescott, Psychologist talked on situation de-escalation and how asking a question as simple as “how can I help you?” could be the most powerful 5 words used when a student is acting out.

Daily, police officers encounter a multitude of individuals in emergency situations. Just as each emergency differs from the next, so do the people involved, especially in regards to those on the autism spectrum.  Since police officers are typically the first on scene in an emergency it is crucial that officers have a working knowledge of autism and the wide variety of behaviors people with autism can exhibit in emergency situations.

“This was an incredible first step to work with school resource officers and guidance counselors to provide the best outcomes for children in our community with behavioral health needs. If we can take a more proactive approach by connecting these children with outpatient services prior to a crisis, outcomes will improve for children and their families,” said Margaret O’Rourke, Nurse Manager at the Behavioral Health Center at IRMC.

“The training provided vital information related to the unique needs of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and also offered an invaluable opportunity for various professionals to engage in productive dialogue in relation to supporting the mental health needs of youth in our community. I look forward to future opportunities for professional development and collaboration between the Behavioral Health Center and school district to continue to improve the manner in which we support the youth in our community,” said Dr. Christina Jacobs, Program Specialist for Psychological and Behavioral Services with the School District of Indian River County.