The Burbank Police Department is the latest agency in Southern California to start handing out mental health stickers that people can place on their home or car as a way to give first responders and police a heads up that someone has special needs.
The department says the program has been very popular and gotten a lot of support on social media.
“The family wants to alert the first responder that the individual there may not respond to instructions, they may not understand danger,” said Officer Fekety, with the Burbank Police Department.
Police departments in Gardena and Seal Beach have been doing this for months.
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The idea first came from the Seal Beach Police Department.
A spokesperson for the department tells NBC4 they’ve since handed out hundreds of stickers, and say people on social media have even tagged their local law enforcement agencies, asking for a similar program.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen some very tragic situations all over the country where law enforcement officers interact with somebody who they believe is either intentionally resisting or not following commands or perhaps under the influence of alcohol or drugs when in fact they are suffering from a developmental or physical disability.”
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Lisa Golden, who is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Southern California, thinks the intention behind the program is good. But she has some concerns about programs that make someone’s special needs public.
“I think it’s a lack of privacy. I think there is still a lot of stigma about mental health issues. and I also think people with severe and persistent mental health issues may not be as likely to go ahead and get one of those stickers or let people know publicly what they’re struggling with,” Golden said.
Golden also explains that placing the sticker for everyone to see makes people with special needs vulnerable to predators and criminals.
She suggests an option that would allow police to work together with county mental health departments, so people with special needs can register with law enforcement and leave a record with them and it wouldn’t be so public.
Residents and Business Owners interested in the sticker program in Burbank, Gardena, and Seal Beach can get a sticker at the front counter of the police station during regular business hours.
Seal Beach police say they don’t keep track of who picks one up.