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County to Host Autism Awareness Training for First Responders
2019 Budget continues life-saving program

Published: 10/23/2018

For More Information Contact:

Colleen Pillus

Poughkeepsie … Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro announced the County will again host its successful Autism Awareness Training for First Responders November 13th-15th, with six sessions over three days at sites throughout the County to accommodate as many first responders as possible. Nationally renowned instructors Bill Cannata and Jimmy Donohue will return to teach law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and security guards how to best interact with an individual with autism during an emergency.

ThinkDIFFERENTLY logoAutism Awareness Training will be one of several “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiatives in the 2019 Executive Budget, which County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro will present on Monday, October 29th. County Executive Molinaro will discuss continued funding for the County’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative and its inclusive events and programs, which have benefited thousands of local residents of all abilities.

County Executive Molinaro said, “Since we first hosted this training in 2017, more than 100 first responders from throughout Dutchess County have learned how to respond to someone with autism in an emergency, making a connection that can mean the difference between life and death. The safety and security of every resident of every ability is a responsibility we all share, and this training plays an important role in teaching our community to ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ about those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Autism Awareness Training for First Responders will be held on the following dates at the following venues:

  • Tuesday, November 13th, 1-4 p.m.; Henry A. Wallace Center, FDR Presidential Library and Home; 4079 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park
  • Tuesday, November 13th, 6-9 p.m.; Millbrook High School; 70 Church Street, Millbrook
  • Wednesday, November 14th, 9 a.m.-noon; Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel; 40 Civic Center Plaza, Poughkeepsie
  • Wednesday, November 14th, 1-4 p.m.; Town of Fishkill Recreation Center; 793 Route 52, Fishkill
  • Wednesday, November 14th, 6-9 p.m.; Dover High School; 2368 Route 22, Dover Plains
  • Thursday, November 15th, 9 a.m.-noon; Danny Kay Theater, Culinary Institute of America; 1946 Campus Drive, Hyde Park

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the fastest-growing neurobiological condition in the world. Hence, first responders are more likely than ever to encounter a person with ASD during an emergency response. Since autism can impair a person’s ability to communicate and relate to others, these calls can become high risk for both the responder and a person with ASD. 

First responders who attend this training will learn to:

  • identify the characteristics and behavior of a person with ASD; 
  • effectively communicate with a person with ASD; 
  • respond to an emergency involving a person with ASD; 
  • build relationships with the ASD community; and
  • utilize special tactics, rescue techniques and patient care options.

Mr. Cannata, Coordinator of the Autism and Law Enforcement Education Center, is a retired captain from the Westwood (Mass.) Fire Department with more 35 years of experience as a firefighter. The father of a son who lives on the autism spectrum, he has trained firefighters across the country to be better prepared to rescue people with autism in an emergency. Mr. Cannata’s efforts have gained national attention from NBC’s “Today” show and Autism Speaks, among others.

Mr. Donohue, a lieutenant with the Pensacola (Fla.) Police Department, created the “Take Me Home” Program, a database which allows those who are unable to speak or properly identify themselves to police officers to register with a photo, physical description and contact information so first responders can provide special assistance that may be required when contact with a person with autism occurs.

Dutchess County thanks its community sponsors – the Dutchess County Police Chiefs Association, Dutchess County Fire Districts Association, Dutchess County EMS Council and the Dutchess County Volunteer Fireman’s Association – for their support of the upcoming trainings. County Executive Molinaro’s 2019 Executive Budget will continue funding for future trainings.

The father of a daughter living on the autism spectrum, County Executive Molinaro established the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative in 2015 as a call to action for Dutchess County – its residents, civic groups and organizations, businesses and government – to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since then, 100 towns, cities and villages have embraced the initiative, passing “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” resolutions and pledging to support those of all abilities. More information about the initiative and community resources, including a calendar of upcoming inclusive events is available on the County’s award-winning website,

In addition to the autism training, other “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” events and programs that will be part of the 2019 Budget include the County’s “Think Ahead” program, a collaboration with Dutchess Community College which offers qualified students with developmental and intellectual disabilities job readiness and skills development; the “Think Jobs” program, which explores and develops employment opportunities for individuals of all abilities; community events, such as the successful movie days, annual picnic and baseball camp; and the annual “Collaboration of Services and Care Across the Life Span for People with Special Needs” conference, which unites providers and residents, fostering inclusion.

County Executive Molinaro will present his 2019 Executive Budget on Monday, October 29th at 10 a.m. in the Legislature Chambers, ahead of the required November 1st deadline established by the Dutchess County Administrative Code. The County Executive’s Budget Address can be viewed live on the County’s website, where all budget documents will also be available for review. On October 29th at 6:30 p.m., County Executive Molinaro will host a countywide tele-town hall forum, during which residents will have the opportunity to participate in a live conversation about the 2019 county budget, learn key details, ask questions and share feedback. Additionally, there will be about the 2019 Executive Budget held throughout the county in the month of November.