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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Montgomery, AL, January 27, 2014 – The Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities (ACDD) will collaborate with the Autism Society of Alabama to help bring the project entitled “Disability Awareness for Responders and Take Me Home Alabama” to the State.

The project will establish a protocol for use by first responders in any community in Alabama in situations in which a youth or adult wanders from safety. In addition, first responders in every Alabama County will be educated on the availability of the Project Lifesaver Rescue and Recovery program. The Take Me Home Program is a free service available to all first responders in Alabama. It is the goal of this project to educate first responders in all Alabama counties regarding the availability of both programs and to initiate a rescue and recovery program for children and adults with developmental disabilities who may wander or elope from their home environment.

Statistics gathered by the National Autism Association (NAA) indicate that about half or 49% of families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) report an episode of wandering. From 2009 to 2012, 91% of the total US deaths resulting after an elopement were drowning deaths. Alabama families living with ASD report that they received very little support or guidance relevant to wandering behavior.

“This important initiative for Alabama families is made particularly relevant as drowning from elopement has been highlighted recently in national news,” said Myra Banks, Executive Director of the Alabama Council for Developmental Disabilities. “It is critical for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to know there is an effective emergency response plan in place following elopement, and that their first responders are trained to handle these types of situations,” said Banks.