Recently, the state of Maryland’s Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) released their initial report. Created in September by Governor Martin O’Malley, the Commission is charged with bringing to life accurate, effective and comprehensive attitudes, policies, and supports that will guide first responders in their work with people with I/DD. Representing The Arc on the Commission is Joanna Pierson, Executive Director of The Arc of Frederick County.
The Commission conducted a national review of materials and approaches in the area of I/DD, examined the status of training in Maryland, looked at how community inclusion efforts over the years have impacted people with I/DD, and determined next steps in their process. Now the Commission is hosting listening sessions across the state that The Arc will participate in.
“The Commission has started an incredibly important dialogue in Maryland about how to bring more awareness to communities across the state about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Too often, we hear of instances where law enforcement is approaching a situation involving a person with an intellectual or developmental disability from a crisis perspective. We need to change this approach so that our first responders are first made aware of how to engage people with disabilities so that things don’t escalate into a crisis as they did with Robert Ethan Saylor. The Arc Maryland is ready to provide this training support with a program that involves people with disabilities, as suggested by the Commission. We think it is vitally important that any training and awareness brought about by this Commission’s work should be inclusive of all types of intellectual and developmental disabilities so that we can make our state safer and more inclusive for all,” said Kate Fialkowski, Executive Director, The Arc Maryland.
In October, The Arc Maryland conducted an introductory training entitled “Law Enforcement Response to Developmental Disabilities” at the Governor’s Fall Criminal Justice Conference. In an “Ask Me” format, individuals with developmental disabilities led this training.
At the national level, in October The Arc was awarded a two-year grant for $400,000 by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to develop the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability. This is the first national effort of its kind to bring together both victim and suspect/offender issues involving people with I/DD under one roof. The goal of this project is to create a national clearinghouse for research, information, evaluation, training and technical assistance for justice and disability professionals and other advocates that will build their capacity to better identify and meet the needs of people with I/DD, whose disability often goes unrecognized, and who are overrepresented in the nation’s criminal justice system – both as victims and suspects/offenders.
“Just a few months into this project, and we are already seeing just how great the need is nationally for resources, information, training, and support around this issue. It shouldn’t take another tragedy like the death of Robert Ethan Saylor to bring the kind of focused attention this issue deserves, and we look forward to working with the Commission to make Maryland’s communities safer for everyone,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.