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FCSO reaching out to special-needs community
Program kicks off on Saturday
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Forsyth County News

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The kickoff of the Special Needs Awareness of Public Safety program is set for 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Cumming First United Methodist Church. Beginning July 9, monthly meetings will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the county’s Public Safety Complex, 3520 Settingdown Road in Cumming.

CUMMING — The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is reaching out to the community’s special-needs population through a new initiative.

A kickoff event for the Special Needs Awareness of Public Safety, or S.N.A.P.S., program will be held Saturday at Cumming First United Methodist Church.

Sonya Camarillo, a community outreach specialist with the sheriff’s office, said the event is a way for “people with special needs to have more awareness of public safety.”

“If they become more comfortable with us ... we can help them better,” she added.

The event is open to both children and adults with special needs. In addition to deputies, firefighters, canine, SWAT and EMS personnel, the event will also feature patrol cars and a fire engine for guests to explore.

The kickoff will be more of a celebration for the program, said Camarill, adding that the educational component will come during the meetings, held the second Wednesday of every month.

The monthly classes will take attendees through situations they could encounter, including traffic stops, and recreate emergency scenarios to help them understand the best way to respond.

For example, firefighters could respond to a gas leak or a burning home, during which medical professionals may need to dispense medications or perform procedures.

For an individual with special needs, the situation could be stressful and emotional, and their reactions could be misinterpreted, Camarillo said. As a result, public safety personnel may have difficulty assisting.

By engaging the special-needs community, Camarillo said authorities will be able to interact on a personal level.

“We’ll have a speaker each month who will give a presentation,” she said. “We need to reach out to this population. We need to be more comfortable with them and they need to be more comfortable with us.”