Governor O’Malley Forms Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Development Disabilities

ANNAPOLIS, MD  – Governor Martin O’Malley today issued an Executive Order to improve training to help law enforcement personnel, paramedics, and other first responders better respond to situations involving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (“IDD”). The Executive Order creates the Maryland Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (the “Commission”). Governor O’Malley also announced that he would name Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman & CEO of Special Olympics, as Chairman of the Commission.

Governor O’Malley created the Commission in part as a response to the circumstances surrounding the death of Frederick County resident Ethan Saylor, who happened to have Down syndrome. Dr. Shriver, a Maryland resident, has been designated the Chairman of this commission based on his deep experience in working in communities to build understanding, acceptance and inclusion of people with IDD.

Among other things, the Commission will be tasked with evaluating the current training received by people that interact with the IDD community and developing and issuing recommendations about the types of statewide training standards that Maryland should adopt to educate individuals in positions of authority—particularly those in public sector positions such as law enforcement officials, paramedics and other first responders—about the best approaches for safely managing situations involving individuals with IDD. The Commission will be composed of state and local officials, disability advocates, and other stakeholders.

“Mr. Saylor’s death is tragic. I join the multitude of people in Maryland and across the country who mourn this loss of life and who seek ways to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again,” said Governor O’Malley. “As a State, we know that there is still progress to be made to ensure that the dignity of every individual is protected.”

Both the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and a Frederick County grand jury have investigated the circumstances surrounding Mr. Saylor’s death. The issue has now grown larger than city, county, or even state government. The United States Department of Justice is currently investigating this incident. The state needs to take steps to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of its training and then to improve the training for law enforcement and other first responders — that is why Governor O’Malley is creating the Commission now, and that is why he has asked Dr. Shriver to serve as Chairman.

The Commission is required to submit an initial report, addressing statewide law enforcement guidelines and statewide training standards, by January 9, 2014, which would have been Mr. Saylor’s 27th birthday.

“I applaud Governor O’Malley’s decision to form this committee,” said Dr. Shriver. “If there is one lesson that all of us who live with, work with, and value people with IDD know, is that there remains a vast gap in understanding — a gap that all too frequently results in stigma, exclusion and painful injustice. Our mission will be to close that gap so that first responders will be the leaders and models of inclusion, acceptance, and support in their communities.”

“Our family commends Governor O’Malley and his administration for listening to our call for action by establishing this important Commission,” said Patti Saylor, mother of Ethan Saylor. “The Commission is one piece toward ensuring what happened to my son, Ethan, never happens to a member of the disability community again. Ethan deserved to be a welcomed member of our community, as do all people with IDD. I look forward to working with Dr. Shriver and the Commission as they move forward in their vital work. ”

“As law enforcement professionals, it is incumbent on us to work diligently to ensure that we are cognizant of and adequately responding to the public safety needs of all the citizens we serve, including our citizens with IDD,”Colonel Marcus Brown, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police said. “I believe the work of this Commission will help Maryland citizens and police officers to better understand the needs of individuals with IDD, while ensuring we are as prepared as possible to respond to their needs. For almost 30 years, thousands of Maryland police officers have supported the efforts of the Law Enforcement Torch Run and Special Olympics Maryland, helping to provide year-round sports training and competition free of charge to thousands of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The formation of this Commission will help us continue our support for this important segment of Maryland citizens.”

Other responsibilities of the Commission will include (1) recommending statewide policies, guidance, or best practices regarding law enforcement and first responders’ responses to situations involving individuals with IDD; and (2) developing a coordinated, collaborative, and comprehensive strategy to ensure enhanced responses to such situations, including consideration of expanding Crisis Intervention Teams and Mobile Crisis Teams.

Over 90,000 Marylanders have intellectual or developmental disabilities. In fact people with IDD represent up to three percent of the world’s population, making it the largest disability population on earth. The O’Malley-Brown Administration recognizes that many individuals in positions of authority, including law enforcement officials and first responders, receive limited training about responding to situations involving individuals with IDD. The purpose of the Commission is to ensure that these officials are able to benefit from policies, guidelines, and training addressing these issues.

A copy of the executive order can be found here.