TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Loretta Weinberg and Bob Gordon, which would require the Department of Health and Senior Services to establish an autism awareness training course and curriculum for first responders like emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters and police officers, has received unanimous final legislative approval from the full Senate.
“In an emergency situation, the knowledge that a person suffers from autism or a related disorder can mean the difference between life and death,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “Because characteristics of autism are not always immediately recognizable, we must make sure that those living with the disease are able to receive the medical care they need, as quickly as possible.”
“These training courses are absolutely necessary, to help protect the safety of people with special needs, and the first responders who may come to their rescue in an emergency,” said Senator Gordon, D-Bergen. “While I am confident that our police officers and first responders work hard to treat all people fairly, we don’t want residents with autism and related disorders being put in harm’s way or penalized, because they are unable to comprehend the directions they’re given.”
The bill, S-1217, would call for the creation of an autism, intellectual and developmental disability training course and curriculum for first responders.
Under the bill, the Commissioners of Health and Senior Services and Human 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 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 who are 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 bill now heads to the Governor’s desk, where his signature would make it State law.