To the Editor:
One of the many Gladwin County public servants for whom I have great respect is Gladwin County Sheriff, Mike Shea. I say this, because there are other law enforcement officers for whom I have great respect, and these officers are Roscommon County Sheriff, Ed Shaw and Undersheriff, Ben Lowe.
This letter focuses on these local public servants because rural Michigan depends upon these people to serve and protect us, no matter what. Recently, the Roscommon County Sheriff’s office kicked off a new First Responder Autism Awareness program, a program designed to, and I quote from the Houghton Lake Resorter of April 8, 2021, “help first responders communicate and interact with community members who are on the autism spectrum.” This is precisely the kind of community understanding our law enforcement women and men must have to do the kind of policing work required of them today.
I wish this was not the case. But we as a society have failed ourselves. We have failed ourselves by failing to understand as fully as possible the kinds of challenges our law enforcement/first responders face today. And let me take this one step further. Let me advocate in favor of all efforts made to improve all social services committed to strengthening the mental health of all citizens. The first responders who have a cadre of community counselors and social workers at their backs will always be more successful in providing their communities of whatever social-economic zip code with the service and protection every man, woman and child deserves.
What will this take? More programs like the Autism Awareness program. More open conversation about the complexity of social issues to which our first responders, particularly our law enforcement servants must respond. Domestic violence is one. So is the absence of adequate and affordable child care. So is...you fill in the blank.
Again, I applaud Sheriff Shea in Gladwin County where I live and Sheriffs Shaw and Lowe in Roscommon County where I am the pastor for the Presbyterian Kirk of the Lakes (USA). May their work be blessed.
Rev. Karen Blatt