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Epilepsy, Alzheimer's priorities to Dewitt police

Epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease are two conditions that law enforcement must consider when responding to emergency calls. Police are dispatched to all medical calls and often times can be the first on the scene before fire or EMS arrives.

In an effort to learn more about how to handle such cases should they occur, the DeWitt Police Department recently hosted an in-service training for its officers as well as for personnel from the East Syracuse and Baldwinsville police departments, DeWitt and Liverpool fire departments, and NAVAC. The multiple educational sessions offered open dialogue between leaders of both the Epilepsy Foundation and the Alzheimer's Association.

"Both organizations have gone to great lengths to create a training curriculum that is specifically for law enforcement," said DeWitt Police Chief Eugene Conway. "That demonstrated to me their commitment about how much they want law enforcement to have knowledge of and be aware of people who are afflicted. We in turn have a commitment to invite and welcome training such as this. It makes us understand better the makeup of the community that we service."

Learning about Epilepsy

The presentation on Epilepsy focused on dispelling myths and misinformation, identifying seizures and considering the response necessary for non-convulsive seizures.

"[Non-convulsive seizures] can be easily mistaken for other conditions such as mental illness, alcohol or substance abuse," said Debra Lewis, community education and counseling coordinator, Epilepsy Foundation. "Our goal was to add one more tool to [a first responder's] assessment toolbox to consider when they come upon someone who may be acting unusual."

People with epilepsy are often unresponsive when having a seizure. Staring blankly, chewing, blinking eyes rapidly and wringing hands are all behaviors that can occur during a non-convulsive seizure event.

"It's important to know they may be confused after the seizure ends," Lewis said. "They can't process information while they're having one."

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