The “Smiths” had a child who developed a number of health issues as he grew, including a liver condition, diabetes, mental issues and Tourette syndrome (a condition of the nervous system that causes sudden twitches or “tics.”) One of the family’s main concerns was that their son would sometimes walk home from high school by himself. Several times the police stopped him. One officer who stopped him did not understand this young man was ill, suspecting he was on drugs. The only way his parents knew their son had been stopped by the police was because a neighbor told them.
Mrs. “Johnson” became the primary caregiver for her husband of 50 years when he developed Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s can change personalities. People diagnosed with this or any form of dementia can react with anger and defensiveness.
Such misunderstandings, rooted in mental illness, can be confusing, scary, upsetting and even dangerous. These two stories are frightening examples for any family. In both cases, no one was seriously hurt but we have all heard of serious and even fatal scenarios in the media. Finding the right social services to support caregivers and their loved ones can be overwhelming. Services are often uncoordinated and provided in their own silos.
The good news is, the San Mateo Police Department now has Project Guardian, a Vulnerable Persons Registry. The registry is a free and confidential database that is offered, managed and maintained by the SMPD. It will provide quick access to critical information about a registered person in the event of an emergency. To learn more and to register your loved one, see the SMPD website page at cityofsanmateo.org/4657/Project-Guardian.
A community meeting 10 a.m. March 23 in the San Mateo Public Library is an ideal opportunity for families who care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, autism, dementia or a developmental or intellectual disability. This event is a place to meet community members who understand the complexities of families with special needs. San Mateo Police Chief Barberini will speak and introduce Briana Fair, who joined the SMPD as a crisis response clinician with the Community Wellness and Crisis Response Team. Fair works alongside police officers when encountering vulnerable people in the community.
Both look forward to hearing your ideas on how to best spread the word about this important new program in our community. The program is now only in the city of San Mateo. We seek to expand Project Guardian or connect with similar efforts in the county. Representatives from community groups will bring brochures and can answer questions about their services. We invite you to join us. The Project Guardian Meet-and-Greet is at the San Mateo City Library, Oak Room, 55 W. Third Ave., San Mateo, from 10 a.m. to noon March 23.
Jackie Siminitus is a community advocate and volunteer with several social agencies including Peninsula Family Service, HIP Housing, and CASA of San Mateo. Gloria Brown is co-founder of the Bay Area Community Health Advisory Council, Alzheimer’s Association ambassador and a community advocate.
Gloria Brown and Jackie Siminitus are two leaders in our community who combine great heart with a commitment to make real positive change. Thanks to you both for leading Project Guardian forward!🙏
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