Niagara University is set to deliver disability awareness training to first responders in Missouri and Montana.

Contracts with the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services will allow the university to deliver training programs similar to the ones it administers in New York, New Jersey and Arkansas.

David Whalen, project director for the Niagara University First Responders Disability Awareness Training program, began implementing the training in Missouri earlier this month. The two-year grant, with a potential third year already being weighed, facilitates NU FRDAT to be embedded into law enforcement, firefighter, emergency medical services and 911 dispatcher training curricula. Whalen will also collaborate with key players in the first responder and disability communities in Missouri to develop a statewide advisory council and customize a curriculum across the four disciplines.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services initiated the contract with NU FRDAT following the closing of a center that housed individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental health disorders. Officials recognized that the center’s closing may pose a challenge to first responders, according to Whalen.

The agreement will include law enforcement, firefighter/EMS, and 911 dispatch train-the-trainer sessions to be held this October 16-20 in Helena. The contract presently calls for only one session per discipline; however, there has been discussion to expand the relationship so as to embed the curriculum as it is in New York and will be done in Missouri.

Niagara University’s First Responders Disability Awareness Training program is customized for each first responder discipline – emergency management, firefighters, 911 operators/dispatchers, emergency medical services (EMS), and law enforcement. Created in cooperation with all major first responder associations, councils and state offices, the training is designed to give first responders the knowledge necessary to best serve and respond to individuals with disabilities.

Established in 2010, the program received the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council 2014 Forging Pathways Award.

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