The Indian Shores Police Department, along with the beach town’s vice mayor, received training last month related to people dealing with aphasia.
Voices for Hope for Aphasia, a St. Petersburg-based nonprofit, conducted the two aphasia training sessions with the Indian Shores Police.
Aphasia is a brain disorder hindering speech and communication skills such as reading and writing. Evidently, it affects people who have suffered strokes or brain injuries.
“The first training was conducted on Aug. 2 by Debbie Yones, executive director of Voices of Hope for Aphasia,” said Lauren Hoadley, program coordinator with Voices for Hope.
Hoadley said two people with aphasia, Tim Burns and Trish Hambridge, helped with the training and answered questions.
On Aug. 23, the second training involved speech-language pathologists from Voices for Hope. Burns and Hambridge returned to answer questions for this session, too.
Indian Shores Vice Mayor Diantha Schear and her husband Larry Schear attended that session as well.
As many as 8,336 people in Pinellas County suffer from aphasia. Additionally, around 175,916 people in Florida suffer from aphasia because of strokes, according to 2019 estimates. There are as many as 2.5 million people with strokes that deal with aphasia.
Hoadley said these numbers do not include individuals with aphasia due to brain injuries, brain tumor, or other neurological problems beyond strokes.
The St. Pete group hopes to bring education efforts to other public safety agencies.
“We hope to be able to provide this training to police departments, paramedics, and fire departments around Pinellas County,” said Hoadley. “In the past, we have provided similar training to St. Pete city employees.”
Furthermore, Hoadley explained that Yones is also a member of CAPI (Committee to Advocate for Persons with Impairments). CAPI is a committee based in St. Pete providing advocacy on behalf of persons with disabilities.
Hoadley said the education and outreach efforts aim to build awareness about aphasia. This includes misperceptions about those struggling to speak and communicate
“There are several misperceptions of aphasia, but the most common ones are that people with aphasia are psychologically ill, intellectually challenged, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Hoadley said.
“The overall goal of our training was to prepare the police department for encounters with people with aphasia. We wanted them to be able to recognize the signs and types of aphasia, learn how to communicate with a person with aphasia, and increase their overall awareness so they can look for aphasia instead of assuming a person may be under the influence. We also wanted to get the police department’s feedback for how we can help prepare our members for emergency situations,” Hoadley said.