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Walton Co. First Responders Kick Off New Program To Better Help Special Need Residents

Walton County Sheriff's office website

The Walton County Sheriff’s office is hoping to better assist residents with differing special needs with the kick off of a new program.

To participate in the “Handle with Care” program, interested Walton County residents with special needs are encouraged to fill out a form.

An alert can then be put into the local sheriff’s office database when that person needs special assistance during an emergency or non-emergency situation.

In a video promoting the program, Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson says the goal is simple.

“It’s our desire to know how we can better serve you, how we can improve our interaction, and help protect you, our citizens,” he said. “At its heart, Handle with Care is about protecting those people in our community, who may need special assistance. We want to make sure that they receive the same level of service that everybody is entitled to. And, that’s my job. That’s our job. It’s to make sure that our family is protected and safe. And, that’s really what Handle with Care is all about.”

Special needs can include autism, down syndrome and behavioral disorders. It can also be classified as hearing impaired, cerebral palsy, or dementia. But, Adkinson says it’s not limited to just that.

“There are a lot of reasons that you, the citizen, may want your deputy sheriff or firefighters to be aware of maybe a physical condition or limitation or maybe something that helps reduce the anxiety of the interaction,” he added. “It can be that you need some specific type of medication. It can be a stress-related interaction you had with law enforcement.”

Program participants will also receive a “Handle with Care” decal to display in their vehicles or windows to help first responders identify them. For more information, visit the Walton County Sheriff’s office website.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.