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Diabetes Alert sticker program informs police officers of motorists' potential medical problems

March 15th, 2014 12:46 am by Staff report

Diabetes Alert sticker program informs police  officers of motorists' potential medical problems

Johnson City police officer Jim Tallmas speaks about diabetes awareness at a press conference at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday. Photo by Nick Shepherd.

BRISTOL — Representatives of Bristol Motor Speedway, Wellmont Health System, Lilly Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association joined NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Ryan Reed Friday to tout the value of the Diabetes Alert sticker.

The event was held the day before the flag drops on the inaugural Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 presented by Lilly Diabetes at the speedway.

Wellmont developed the Diabetes Alert sticker, which is placed on a rear window and helps officers know they need to check whether a person driving erratically is having difficulties with diabetes instead of driving while impaired. The health system has partnered with law enforcement officers locally and across the state to raise awareness that such a scenario might be in play.

"If you have never seen the symptoms of a high- or low-blood-sugar episode in a person with diabetes, you would probably assume the individual is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol," said Jim Perkins, director of Wellmont Diabetes Treatment Centers. "The Diabetes Alert sticker is a great way to help law enforcement identify individuals who might be prone to such an event."

The American Diabetes Association advises in addition to alerting law enforcement that a driver may have diabetes, it is important for law enforcement officers to receive training on diabetes in order to respond appropriately to diabetes emergencies. The association works to educate law enforcement agencies about diabetes and has developed several training resources, including an educational video and accompanying poster, diabetes information cards and diabetes medical alert wallet cards that can be kept in a person's vehicle.

Perkins commended police departments and sheriff's departments across the state for recognizing this potential medical issue. Mark Sirois, Johnson City's police chief, said these types of cases are not as rare as one might think.

"This has been a highly successful program that has contributed greatly to public safety and the health of motorists," Sirois said. "The Diabetes Alert sticker gives our officers important information that the driver of a vehicle pulled over or in an accident may be experiencing a diabetes emergency, and officers who respond can take necessary steps to secure medical care."

Multiple organizations put a lot of thought into the program, and appropriate safeguards were established to ensure Diabetes Alert stickers were provided to those people who needed them, Perkins said.

Stickers, which require a prescription from a physician, are available at 27 locations throughout Tennessee, which include four Wellmont hospitals and Wellmont Urgent Care in Johnson City.

Reed, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 17, has collaborated with the American Diabetes Association on the Drive to Stop Diabetes initiative and is the driver of the No. 16 Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He said he appreciates Wellmont and police agencies working together to establish and grow the sticker program. Reed has to take precautions to control his diabetes on and off the track and knows the potential health problems when something is amiss.

"As a professional driver living with diabetes, I know the dangers of having a high- or low-blood-sugar episode while behind the wheel," Reed said.

"I have systems in place to deal with such an event during a race, including sources of fast-acting sugar in my car and a member of my pit crew who is trained to give me an insulin injection at a pit stop.

"However, most drivers with diabetes don't have that luxury. That's why the Diabetes Alert sticker is such a valuable tool to ensure no time is wasted in getting a person with diabetes the help they need in the event of such an episode."

For more information about the stickers, please call Wellmont Diabetes Treatment Centers at 423-224-3575 or visit www.mydiabetesalert.com.

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