TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Bergen County Senators Loretta Weinberg and Bob Gordon which requires 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 been signed into law by Governor Jon Corzine.
“In an emergency situation, every second counts, and the knowledge that a person suffers from autism can mean the difference between life and death,” said Senator Weinberg. “The signs of autism are not always easily recognizable, so knowledge of it and related disorders will help first responders know how best to deal with and treat those living with the disease.”
“Training courses like the ones called for in this legislation are absolutely necessary to help protect people with special needs, and the first responders who may come to their rescue in an emergency situation,” said Senator Gordon. “While I am confident that our law enforcement officers and first responders work hard to treat all people with respect, this is an issue of fairness. I would hate to hear of a person living with autism being physically harmed because of their inability to comprehend instructions they’ve been given.”
The Senators’ bill, S-1217, calls for the creation of an autism, intellectual and developmental disability training course and curriculum for first responders.
The Commissioners of Health and Senior Services and Human Services will 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 will be responsible for developing the program for firefighters.
Under the law, new EMTs, volunteer and paid firefighters and local police officer recruits are required to complete the training as a condition of certification. EMTs, firefighters and police officers who are currently licensed in New Jersey are now required to complete the training as a continuing education course within three years of the bill’s enactment date.