A sample of the color-coded PIN stickers.

Thanks to UCC-related St. John’s Community Care — based in Collinsville, Ill. — and the Madison County Elder Resources TRIAD program, a free new program is available to residents of the local Madison County that will help police officers appropriately respond and assist persons with communication impairments.

The PIN (Potentially Impaired or Nonverbal Person) Sticker Program went into effect Oct. 1. Modeled after a similar program in nearby St. Louis County, it allows for persons within Madison County suffering from an impairment that potentially affects communication ability to register via a short form at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. Registrants receive two color-coded stickers (one for their primary automobile and one for their home.) The stickers are color coded in a manner that alerts law enforcement officials to a specific impairment or communication barrier.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office will maintain a database of participants, and local police agencies will be notified if a participant resides within their jurisdiction. The color key and related list of impairments will be law enforcement sensitive. To honor privacy concerns, color keys will be disseminated to all local police agencies with the request that the information not be made public or shared with the media.

The program helps police officers, whether on a traffic stop or responding to a private residence, to recognize the PIN sticker and be aware that an impairment — such as hearing loss, dementia, autism, and the like — may present a communication barrier.

“Often, an officer who is called to a situation is assessing and reacting to a scene, and uses voice commands to communicate expected behavior,” says Missy Athmer, director of marketing for St. John’s Community Care. “There are times when a non-verbal person will not be able to follow those instructions, leading to misunderstanding and added stress for both parties. We hope this eliminates some of the stress and creates understanding leading to better outcomes for both parties.”