County Offers Special Needs Registry | News, Sports, Jobs

YOUNGSTOWN – Mahoning County now has a new tool for its 911 center that will help police and firefighters respond to a location where a person with special needs may be.

A Special Needs Registry has been launched and already has more than 60 people registered.

The registry is the brainchild of Gina DeGenova, public information officer for the Mahoning County District Attorney’s Office. She has worked in the district attorney’s office for 16 years and said her current job title involves looking at other communities and programs and introducing programs that will suit and benefit the county and its residents.

DeGenova said the county had a program for residents with special needs, but it was an afterthought.

“The officers (responding to a call) had to go into the computer system and look for a person to see if they were in the system,” DeGenova said.

This meant that an officer had to get the person’s name from their ID card or a social security number provided by the person or guardian.

In the new county registry, information about the person with a special need is loaded into a 911 database. When a call arrives at a registered location, the database will provide the dispatcher with the information, which can be instantly transmitted to first responders.

“We wanted to make it easier for agents to use,” DeGenova said. “We’ve also kept it wide for anyone with a special need or situation.”

She said the registry can cover people with mental or physical needs. It will also reveal the triggers that can trigger a person. She gave the example of a mermaid upsetting a person with a mental disability. If responders know ahead of time, they can turn off the sirens as they get closer.

“When the agent is dispatched, the 911 operator will let them know what the special needs are and what the triggers are,” she said.

She said the triggers were added after a meeting with the Mahoning County Developmental Disabilities Board.

Another feature of the new registry is to have a photo of the person in the system. Dispatchers will be able to send a photo of a person with special needs to the first responders vehicle computer. Having the photo will help first responders quickly identify the registered person and know what they are dealing with.

Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said she was proud to have the new registry.

“This program is a collaborative effort (between) our office, the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s office…to better serve our community and protect people with developmental or mental disabilities,” she said.

The registration of a person in the register is free. To enter online, go to and complete the forms. DeGenova said the site is secure and the information will only be used by 911 operators and first responders. Those who want a paper application sent by mail can call the attorney’s office at 330-740-2330.

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