Weinberg/Coniglio Bill Calls For Creation Of Autism Awareness Training Programs For First Responders

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Loretta Weinberg and Joseph Coniglio which would require the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to establish an autism awareness training course and curriculum for first responders like Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) was unanimously approved today by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens committee.

“Characteristics of autism and other related diseases are not always immediately recognizable, and this training will help give first responders like EMTs signs to look for when dealing with autistic patients,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, who is a member of the Senate Health panel. “We are all well aware of New Jersey’s unusually high autism rates, and this training is imperative to help educate our first responders about autism, and many of the characteristics of people living with the disease.”

“This legislation is about ensuring that New Jersey’s EMTs, firefighters and police officers have the training necessary to deal with the special needs of the autistic population,” said Senator Coniglio, D-Bergen. “The training courses would help to break down some of the stigma surrounding autism and other related disorders, and help to make sure that those living with the disease receive the medical care they need in an emergency situation.”

The Senators’ bill, S-2574, would call for the creation of an autism, intellectual and developmental disability training course and curriculum first responders.

Under the bill, the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services would work in conjunction with the New Jersey Fire and Emergency Medical Services Institute and the New Jersey State First Aid Council to develop the course for police officers and EMTs. The Department of Community Affairs’ Division on Fire Safety and the New Jersey Fire and Emergency Medical Services Institute would be responsible for developing the program for firefighters.

New EMTs, volunteer and paid firefighters and local police officer recruits would be required to complete the training as a condition of certification. EMTs, firefighters and police officers currently licensed in New Jersey would be required to complete the training as a continuing education course within three years of the bill’s enactment date.

This measure now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

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