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Friday, June 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Travis Alert is a sensible, sensitive step forward

The following editorial is from the Yakima Herald-Republic

A state legislator who represents the Yakima Valley may have started a national movement, now that the Travis Alert Act has won overwhelming legislative approval and is on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee. On top of being a first-in-the-nation effort, the measure is a sensible and sensitive policy step that will benefit special-needs individuals, their families and first responders.

The bill is named for Travis King, a 12-year-old Wapato boy with autism. His parents, Theresa and Darren King, have sought ways to inform first responders about what they should do if they encounter Travis; like many with autism, he is prone to wandering from home and has trouble communicating.

The Kings have painted onto their mailbox a jigsaw piece, which symbolizes the vexing nature of autism, as a way to alert authorities that an autistic child resides at the house. The Kings told the area fire department what the symbol meant, but they understood that not every first responder would understand the symbol.

Travis’ case has caught the attention of 14th District Rep. Gina McCabe, R-Goldendale. Last year, she introduced a bill to set up a statewide standard for reflective symbols that can be placed on autos and homes. The symbols, like the one on the Kings’ Wapato mailbox, would have alerted police, firefighters and medical responders that an occupant of the home or car has a disability. It also would have set up a system in which dispatchers can relay information to emergency responders and create a training program so that responders know how to work with those with disabilities. The bill passed the House but ran out of time in the Senate.

This year, a different version of McCabe’s bill easily cleared both chambers, but without the language about reflective stickers. Among the provisions of House Bill 1258 is a requirement that the state create a training program. The state also would study the feasibility of allowing information about a disabled person to be displayed in the 911 call system to alert police, firefighters and paramedics; family members would voluntarily provide this information.

The bill could help individuals with a range of conditions, such as diabetes, Down syndrome or Alzheimer’s – and signal a responder that an erratic driver may be having a medical emergency rather than an alcohol or drug impairment.

The bill passed the House 97-1 and 47-0 in the Senate, with two lawmakers excused. We urge Gov. Inslee to heed the overwhelming will of the Legislature and sign the measure into law.

Lawmakers in at least two other states have shown interest in the measure, and others are likely to follow suit. If a nationwide movement results from this effort, Yakima Valley residents can say that it all started here.

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