"It is very important," says Mahoning County prosecutor Gina DeGenova of an initiative a year in the making.

"The Blue Envelope program assists drivers with disabilities or anxiety disorders communicate during a traffic stop," DeGenova explained Wednesday during a Mahoning County Commissioners meeting in Struthers.

It started clear across the country as a pilot program from the San Diego Sheriff's Office. Drivers carry a Blue Envelope in their vehicle. The front of the envelope notes they are on the autism spectrum and indicates if they are verbal or nonverbal. It includes instructions for the driver on what they should do during a traffic stop. The back of the Blue Envelope has tips for police to help their interaction with the driver go as smoothly as possible.

After hearing about it, DeGenova consulted with community partners who help people with different disabilities. 

"And in talking with these individuals and these entities, it was clear that there's a need there," she said, adding that lots of negative interactions with law enforcement could have had something to do with a person's condition like autism or another anxiety disorder.

"It was a great accompaniment to what we already had implemented, which was our special needs registry," said DeGenova.

After listening to her presentation Wednesday, commissioners believe that having this program in place could very well save a life.

"Not everybody is able to handle when a police officer stops them," said commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti. "And when they get nervous and do things, the officer seems to think it's something else when nine times out of 10, it is not."

The program is set to begin July 1 with a rollout event planned for later in the month.
The Public Library of Youngstown-Mahoning County branches will serve as distribution points for the envelopes.
Perhaps best of all - it won't cost the county a thing.