By distributing green silicone bracelets emblazoned with the words Oak Park Cares, the Oak Park Police Department is working to break down communication barriers and improve mental health awareness.
While the bracelets offer a chance to visibly show support for mental health awareness, which is associated with the color green, the bracelets also may help improve communication between emergency first responders and individuals with autism, Alzheimer’s, dementia or other mental health challenges.
Parents and guardians of Oak Park residents who may have difficulty communicating in an emergency are encouraged to sign up for a free bracelet that includes a metal face plate with a unique identification number and directions for contacting the Oak Park Police Department.
For safety precautions, the bracelets with faceplates contain no personal information, but the identification number offers access to information that is secured at the Police Department. The information will be shared only by a watch commander with police, fire or emergency room personnel when needed in an emergency.
“The ultimate goal is to keep the individual safe and provide an expedient return to the parent or guardian,” said Oak Park Police Sergeant Kevin Collins, who helped create the program here.
Additional bracelets without faceplates are available to family members, friends and neighbors who want to show support and help eliminate the stigma often associated with mental health issues.
Collins, who previously served as the school resource officer at Brooks Middle School, said the idea for the bracelet program grew out of his work with the school’s special education department.
“We noticed that if someone is diabetic or has nut allergies there are safety precautions in place,” Collins said. “So why not try to do something along those lines for someone who has difficulty communicating in everyday situations, let alone in a high-stress emergency situation?”
In addition to working with educators in Oak Park School District 97, Collins and the Police Department also received a grant from the Oak Park Township Mental Health Board to help establish the program.
Collins noted that several fellow police officers and teachers at Brooks have joined him in regularly wearing the green bracelets, adding that he hopes others in the community will join in, too, showing their support and helping make sure no one feels singled out.
Bracelets are available by contacting the Oak Park Police Department at 708.386.3800, firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the Police Department at Village Hall, 123 Madison St.
Officer Kevin Collins