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City, county groups ready Yellow Dot plan

January 7, 2012

Starkville and Oktibbeha County residents will soon have an opportunity to sign up for the Yellow Dot program, an initiative designed to immediately provide emergency responders with medical information in the case of an accident.

Participants in the program would receive a yellow sticker to place on the rear windshields of their vehicles as well as forms to fill out with their medical information. The information, with a picture for proper identification, would be placed in a marked folder inside the glove compartments of their automobiles.

Starkville Parks and Recreation Director Matthew Rye said all the pieces are in place for the program to be enacted in the coming months.

“The materials are ordered, and we expect them to be in any day now,” Rye said. “We’re putting the finishing touches on a brochure, and as soon as all that comes together, I’d imagine in the spring we’d be able to roll the program out to the public.”

The committee designated to get the Yellow Dot program in Starkville was first organized in August. It consists of Rye, city Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Starkville Police Department Chief David Lindley and Starkville Fire Department Chief Rodger Mann.

Sistrunk said the plan to bring the Yellow Dot program to Starkville is a community effort between the city of Starkville, Oktibbeha County, Mississippi State University, Oktibbeha-Starkville Emergency Response Volunteer Services, Greater Starkville Development Partnership, Oktibbeha County Hospital and Northeast Mississippi Red Cross.

“When we became aware of the program it was something that appeared to be beneficial to our community and could generate a great deal of interest,” she said. “This is a great program. It’s very cost effective; it can be useful in case of an accident but can also be useful in other emergency situations where people are not familiar with your medical history.”

Sistrunk said when planning on how to bring the program to Starkville, the committee got in touch with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, which oversees the Yellow Dot program in that state. More than 30 Alabama have the program in place.

“(ADECA) was very helpful in providing information about setting up the program,” she said. “We’ve tried to touch as many community groups that would be interested as we could. From there we made a to-do list to set up the program, identified locations where people would sign up, got supplies for the program and figured out where contact points would be for organizations we were talking to.”

Spruill said the service will be free to any city and county residents who feel they would benefit.

“The city has provided $5,000 (to get the materials necessary to start the project), so that should buy us a good number of packets,” Spruill said. “Once we get a better idea of the response we get (from potential participants), we can better determine how we need to adjust funding in the coming years.”

Spruill said she believes the program will take off in Mississippi as it has in Alabama because of the security it offers.

“I think the program will grow, in large part because you have an aging population and there are concerns for people with health problems as they get older,” she said, “but this can benefit anyone who has any kind of health issue in order to be better served. This is not geared toward a specific part of the population, but to any of those people who would find themselves needing special assistance or having a disability that would need treatment from first responders.

“Even if you didn’t have special needs, you wouldn’t have to scramble to find information in case of an emergency,” Spruill said.

Sistrunk said the funding provided by the city will help get an ample enough amount of materials to get the program started.

“The amount we allocated will allow us to buy 2,500 to 5,000 packets, depending on the cost of a few things,” Sistrunk said. “That will allow us to handle what we think initial interest will be and will cover the cost of folders to put in compartments, brochures to pass out to people in the community and to pay for the stickers themselves.”

Rye said he believes the program will generate a positive response from the community.

“Anyone can take advantage of this, especially if you’re a senior citizen taking a lot of medication,” he said. “For people with illnesses this can be very helpful in that first line of defense. I think citizens of Starkville and Oktibbeha county would take advantage of it.”

Sistrunk said the idea of the Yellow Dot program alone should be enough to promote itself.

“We’ve had very positive feedback from discussions we’ve had at board meetings, and once it’s publicized more people will realize the importance of what this service provides,” she said. “If it helps one person, it’s very worthwhile.”

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