Community Activism Leads to Law to Protect Persons with Medical Disabilities

At the request of local activists, State Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry ushered through the legislature a new bill that will help individuals with medical conditions identify themselves to police in an emergency event.

Signed into law by the Governor on June 2, Senate Bill 114 enables a driver’s license applicant to request that her or his license indicate a medically recognized disorder. It will take effect on July 1, 2016.

“Often times a person’s first point of contact with a police officer is when they get stopped. If you have autism or diabetes and you’re in crisis, this will ensure police don’t assume you’re drunk or on drugs,” Carson said.

Someone suffering complications related to diabetes may display behavior similar to someone who is drunk or under the influence of drugs, said alternate Heritage Commissioner Janet Chichocki, who worked with Carson to get the legislation drafted and proposed in Concord.

Carson said if police are able to easily identify a person’s medically recognized disorder on their license, they will be able to treat the person differently.

“This will keep not only the person being stopped safe, but also police officers,” Carson said. “At the Academy, they are teaching police officers alternative ways to deal with people with medical disorders.”

Londonderry Police Chief Bill Hart said the legislation sounds like it will be a benefit to officers and the communities they serve.

“Police officers are in the business of being able to effectively communicate, and that means listening to folks with regard to their concerns. If someone is challenged because of a physical or mental challenge, it’s great to know that so we can find a different way to help them,” he said.

As amended by the Senate, the new law will have no fiscal impact on state, county, or local expenditures or revenue. The bill will increase state highway fund expenditures by an indeterminable amount in FY16 and each fiscal year thereafter.

Carson said passage of the new law is a great example of community activism.

“This is a small group of citizens who saw a problem, reached out to me and made this happen,” she said.

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