MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new app is helping police officers help people with disabilities.

The VITALS app launched less than a year ago, and recently expanded to Dakota County. The app alerts law enforcement if a person has autism or cognitive disabilities.

As WCCO’s Kate Raddatz shares, it made the difference for getting a woman from a small Minnesota town home safely.

Katelyn, 23, has her route home from work memorized.

“For anyone who has an intellectual disability, they memorize things differently than everyone else does,” Anne Kasel, Katelyn’s mother, said.

Last month, Katelyn’s normal route to her parents’ house in Vermillion Township was blocked due to an accident. It was late at night on dirt county roads. She was confused.

“I was scared but more stressed out than anything because I didn’t know how to get home,” Katelyn said.

She called her mother, Anne, who asked to speak with the reserve officer directing traffic. He thought Katelyn was driving impaired due to her speech, behavior and confusion.

“She hit pause, pulled over and stopped, and that was strange behavior from the officer’s perspective,” Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said.

But then, a sheriff’s deputy responded to the scene. He got an alert through the Vitals First, a responder App, as Katelyn was wearing her beacon.

The app informed the deputy about Katelyn, her address and parents’ contact information.

“He asked Katelyn to follow him and got her home safely,” Sheriff Leslie said.

“Actually having the vitals card actually did make a difference for me,” Katelyn said.

“You have the security, if she got pulled over by an officer, they would know exactly her story and how to interact with her,” Steve Kasel, Katelyn’s father, said.

The app costs the family around $10 a month. VITALS recently expanded to Crow Wing County as well.

Kate Raddatz


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