A new safety net is going into place today in West University to protect vulnerable residents — youngsters through seniors — who may wander just a few blocks from home but not be able to tell first responders where they should be.
Registration is now open for the West U Cares Program, designed for those residents with conditions that make communicating difficult or impossible in event they are lost — such as autism, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Signups can be done in person at the West U Police Department, 3800 University Blvd., or by going online to a new webpage. In addition to providing physical description and important information about their condition, registrants will be asked either to provide a photograph or have one taken by the police department, with an appointment.
The photograph must be current and clearly show the registrant, preferably by him/herself and will have to be updated annually for those under 18.
In addition to their information being placed into a database accessible by first responders in the field, they will be also given an emergency information card to carry.
Registration will allow first responders to help identify those in the database if they are reported missing or found wandering, and to provide that information to other jurisdictions so that the resident can be returned home. Both Bellaire and Southside Place are implementing their own versions of the program.
The program stems from personal experience, encouraged by a Bellaire mother, Liz Selig, whose autistic 7-year-old son wandered to park in his neighborhood but couldn’t tell police his name or address. After she was instrumental in helping Bellaire establish “Home Safe Bellaire,” she brought the program to West U, where WUPD Sgt. Jessica Ly jumped into action.