St. Paul Police, Autism Minnesota Launch App

August 31, 2017 08:39 PM

It's called the 'Vitals' app.

It was launched Thursday by St. Paul police in conjunction with Autism Minnesota, and is meant to help first responders learn more about people who have mental, physical or other medical conditions. 


People like the 14-year-old son of Charlene Willord of St. Paul. He has autism and other severe medical conditions. She's created a profile for him using the app. 

"I got the app to keep him safe," she said. "He wears a beacon around his neck that can inform officers that he is scared of people, doesn't talk much and has Austim."

Officer Robert Zink said detailed information is pertinent for first responders in order to effectively communicate and potentially approach a person in need. 

"Officers should download the app and hit 'On Duty' while they're on patrol," he said.

"They will be notified if a person with a beacon is within their vicinity, and they can immediately learn more about them to de-escalate a situation." 

Here's how the app works:

First, a user downloads the app. Parents and caregivers provide a detailed profile about their loved one. That includes a picture, name, gender, age, height and weight. Other information includes de-escalating techniques and behavior triggers.

A beacon device is then distributed by mail, or through the St. Paul Police Department for the child/adult.

Officers are able to download a 'Vitals' app specifically authorized to the St. Paul Police Department.

While on patrol, officers will receive an alert on their phone displaying the profile of a person with a beacon within 60 feet of their vicinity. 

"Our officers can respond better to people who may be experiencing a medical crisis with this type of information from the app," Zink said.

Jillian Nelson with Austim Minnesota has been working with the St. Paul police to fully launch the app. 

"This is more than tracking your children," Nelson said. "We need officers to have more in-depth information that allows them to really know how to interact with that specific person, and what their relationship with their disability is." 

Willard is urging other parents to get the app, saying it could save her son's life. 

"It makes me feel comfortable, safe and happy for my child and others," she said.

Police said more than 120 people have received beacons connected to detailed profiles in the app so far.


Cleo Greene

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