Miscommunication between drivers and police officers sometimes leads to dangerous outcomes, but a new program is taking root in Maine aiming to avoid such interactions.

Chief of Police Marc Hagan holds the blue envelopes available for pickup at the Topsham Police Department. Other police stations in Maine are adopting the program. Courtesy of the Down Syndrome Advocacy Project of Maine

The Blue Envelope Program provides blue envelopes to drivers on the autism spectrum, with Down syndrome, or other intellectual disabilities or high anxiety. Inside, drivers can store a driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance so they’re easy to access. If the driver is stopped by police, they can place the envelope on the dashboard or hand it to the officer. This prevents the driver from having to fumble around looking for each item, and the blue envelope serves as a signal to the officer that the driver could have an intellectual disability or high stress level.

Topsham Police Department is the latest agency in Maine to join the program.

Erica Koch, co-founder and co-chairperson of the Down Syndrome Advocacy Project of Maine, contacted Topsham Chief of Police Marc Hagan about the Blue Envelope Program and wanted to know if the Topsham Police Department was interested in distributing the blue envelopes at the police station. The first police station to adopt the Blue Envelope Program in Maine was the Cape Elizabeth Police Department back in September 2023, according to a press release by the town of Cape Elizabeth.

“I thought it was a really interesting concept and something that we needed here in Maine,” Koch said.

Topsham Police Department adopted the Blue Envelope Program in the last week of May, at no extra cost to taxpayers and with no heavy lifting for police, Hagan said.

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“After talking to [Koch], it seemed like a no-brainer that it would be something good for law enforcement to be involved in,” Hagan said. “If we stop somebody or we come up on a crash, the driver hands us this blue envelope and it immediately provides us an awareness level to something we may be seeing that normally might give us some safety concerns. … If we understand why people are acting the way they are, it helps our own officers calm down a little bit.”

Sgt. Kevin Kennedy of Cape Elizabeth Police Department (right) demonstrates how the blue envelopes work with driver Jack Christensen (left) as the program spreads around Maine. Courtesy of the Down Syndrome Advocacy Project of Maine

The Down Syndrome Advocacy Program of Maine is looking into spreading the Blue Envelope Program across the state. It has provided other special needs advocacy groups, such as the Autism Society of Maine, with blue envelopes to spread around in their regions.

The Down Syndrome Advocacy Program provides blue envelopes to police departments or any requests from individuals, Koch said. Down Syndrome Advocacy is looking into applying for grants and private donations to cover the costs of printing the envelopes, with $1,000 covering the cost of about 4,300 blue envelopes.

“I have reached out to as far south as Wells to as far north as Madawaska, so we are going statewide,” Koch said.

The program started in 2020 in Connecticut. It soon spread to other states like New Jersey, New York, California and now Maine. Other police departments that have adopted the Blue Envelope Program include Westbrook and South Portland. The blue envelopes are available in the Topsham Public Safety building lobby across from Town Hall.

“You don’t have to have Down syndrome in order to use [the blue envelopes]; we are making them available to anyone,” Koch said. “So whether you are autistic or you have anxiety, for example, the envelopes are going to be available to you.”


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