STATEHOUSE (Jan. 22, 2016) – Hoosiers with developmental disabilities will now be able to better communicate with law enforcement officers and others to avoid misunderstandings as a result of legislation authored by State Rep. Eric Koch (R-Bedford). House Bill (HB) 1012 passed unanimously in the House this week.
Under the proposal, the Indiana State Department of Health would be authorized to issue identification (ID) cards indicating that an individual has been medically diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or another developmental disability. The cards would help prevent law enforcement officials and others from, for instance, mistakenly interpreting autistic behavior for noncompliance or aggression.
Tim Downs, President of the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), said his organization supports the bill.
“In certain situations, dealing with citizens suffering from autism can be challenging and often requires extra care,” Downs said. House Bill 1012 will allow for someone diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, their parent or guardian to request and be issued a Health Department Certification Card, so that law enforcement can be made aware of the person’s condition when citizen contacts occur. The FOP wishes to thank Representative Koch for his continued commitment to law enforcement and the citizens of our state.”
Groups such as the Autism Society of Indiana also support the bill as similar legislation has proven to be effective in the state of Alabama.
Applying for the card is voluntary, does not enlist the participant into a registry, and does not otherwise excuse an individual for their actions.
“The availability of this card can help avoid misunderstandings with law enforcement and others who may mistake autistic behavior for noncompliance, increasing safety and facilitating better communication,” Koch said. “I appreciate the advice and collaboration of the stakeholders who came together around this bill, including the FOP, Indiana Sheriff’s Association, the Indiana Chiefs of Police, the Autism Society of Indiana, the ARC of Indiana, Mental Health of America of Indiana and the Indiana Department of Health.”
House Bill 1012 will now head to the Senate for further consideration.
Rep. Koch (R-Bedford) represents all of Brown County, most of Lawrence County and parts of Monroe, Jackson and Johnson counties.