DJJ COMMUNITY NEWS: Driver Services Commissioner Announces New Emergency Preparedness Initiative DJJ Staff  at:  6/16/2014  

DJJ COMMUNITY NEWS: Driver Services Commissioner Announces New Emergency Preparedness Initiative

Blood Type Option for Georgia Driver’s License or Identification Card

Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) Commissioner Rob Mikell, under the direction of Governor Nathan Deal, is providing a new emergency preparedness initiative for customers obtaining a driver’s license or state identification card. Customers may request that their blood type be printed on the back of their permanent card. This addition is completely optional and may help medical personnel during an emergency.

“In an emergency situation, medical personnel need up-to-date health information to quickly and efficiently treat injuries,” said Governor Deal. “To better assist these first responders, our Department of Driver Services is now giving Georgians the option to include their blood type on their license or identification cards. This is yet another example of our continued commitment to the safety and well-being of our state’s drivers.”

“I am grateful for the support of Governor Deal and the partnership with Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Commissioner, Department of Public Health (DPH), to inform our customers of this new option,” said Commissioner Mikell. “It is completely optional but may serve as an important medical alert for those that utilize it.”

“Every second matters in an emergency,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “If a person becomes incapacitated and cannot speak, it’s our hope that this information could speak for them, alerting rescuers to the person’s blood type and saving precious time.”

On the application for issuance or renewal of a driver’s license or ID card, customers will indicate if they would like their blood type printed on the back of their permanent card. A customer who indicates yes will then select their blood type. The customer’s permanent license or ID will have their blood type printed on the back of the card under Medical Information.

For complete driver education, licensing and testing information including many online services, please visit




     Deal, GEMA premiere upgraded emergency mobile app DJJ Staff  at:  6/16/2014  

Deal, GEMA premiere upgraded emergency mobile app

Deal: New features will keep Georgians prepared and informed during emergencies

Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security today introduced an upgraded version of the state’s emergency mobile app, Ready Georgia, which was designed to help Georgians stay safe and informed during emergencies. Upgrading the app was one of the recommendations of the governor’s Severe Winter Weather Warning and Preparedness Taskforce.

“When severe weather hit our state this year, I called on our emergency management agency to upgrade the state’s emergency app with shelter information, alternative transportation routes and other emergency-related information,” Deal said. “The Ready Georgia app already served as a good resource for Georgians, but now that its capabilities have been expanded it will keep us better informed when emergency situations arise. I appreciate the cooperative efforts of all involved in this process, and I encourage everyone to download this app in advance of future weather-related emergencies.”

Launching just in time for the start of hurricane season on June 1, the upgraded Ready Georgia app features geo-targeted severe weather and emergency alerts that will notify users’ phones before disasters strike. The app also includes traffic information, including a live traffic map with incident reports straight from the Georgia Department of Transportation. Finally, an enhanced shelters map displays the location of open Red Cross shelters and approved “good Samaritan” shelters, and provides directions from the users’ current location.

“This was a collaborative process and we’d like to thank all the organizations that partnered with us to provide information and feedback during development,” said GEMA/Homeland Security Director Charley English. “This app is an important tool in our ability to communicate with Georgians and help them stay informed, and we are really pleased with the new features that we have added as part of this upgrade.”

In addition to the new features, users will still be able to keep checklists of emergency supplies, create customized disaster plans for their families, check flood risk levels and historical tornado data near their location, and find contact information for their local emergency management agencies.

GEMA worked in partnership with the National Weather Service, GDOT, Georgia Tech and The Weather Channel during the app’s development. To download the Ready Georgia mobile app, visit For more information on how to prepare for severe weather, visit To learn about specific risks in your area, contact your local emergency management agency.

About Ready Georgia
Ready Georgia is a statewide campaign designed to educate and empower Georgians to prepare for and respond to natural disasters, pandemic outbreaks, potential terrorist attacks and other large-scale emergencies. The campaign is a project of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and provides a local dimension to Ready America, a broader national campaign. Ready Georgia aims to prepare citizens for maintaining self-sufficiency for at least 72 hours following an emergency, and uses an interactive Web site, online community toolkit, broadcast and print advertising and public awareness media messaging to reach its audiences. Ready Georgia is also on Facebook and YouTube.




     MOSS Group Conducts Victim Impact and Advocacy Training for DJJ Leadership DJJ Staff  at:  5/29/2014  

MOSS Group Conducts Victim Impact and Advocacy Training for DJJ Leadership

Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery D. Niles and his Executive Staff met at Central Office in May for special leadership training about the current DJJ culture towards Victimization and its impact on overall agency decision-making.

The “round table” discussion was conducted by the Moss Group, a Washington, DC-based consulting firm and some of the foremost leaders in corrections topics including PREA, gender responsive issues, and correctional sexual abuse concerns.

The special leadership training was developed in partnership between The Moss Group and consultant Anne Seymour specifically for the GA Department of Juvenile Justice.

Anne Seymour is the leading national subject matter expert in victim advocacy and also has her own consulting firm based in the nation’s capital. Ms. Seymour works with several victim topics, including correctional sexual abuse victims and survivors.

These national subject matter experts also covered gender responsive issues, vulnerable populations, and internal and external victimization response.

The Victim Impact and Advocacy Training was geared towards leadership staff and conducted by special request from Commissioner Niles as he recognized the importance and impact of victimization not only on victims of juvenile crime, but also on juvenile victims within the juvenile justice system. Commissioner Niles also saw the need for increased awareness for DJJ’s vulnerable youth populations.

The Executive Training Session was followed by a day of instruction focusing on DJJ management needs for dealing with victim issues on a daily basis at DJJ secure facilities and court service offices. Moss Group consultants congratulated Georgia’s Juvenile Justice leadership for having “an awesome website” and said that DJJ’s “News & Views” webpages contain the best Victim Impact and Advocacy section they have ever seen on-line.





     The Waycross RYDC and the Wellness Program DJJ Staff  at:  5/27/2014  

The Waycross RYDC and the Wellness Program

Youth at the Waycross Regional Youth Detention Center have been participating in a long-term Wellness Program to improve health and fitness at the facility. As part of the Wellness Program, the youth have planted a garden consisting of squash, bell peppers, tomatoes, corn, carrots, watermelon, cantaloupes, zipper cream peas, banana peppers, okra and sunflowers. Through the planting, youth at the Waycross RYDC are being taught the importance of consistency and responsibility while maintaining the upkeep of the facility garden. In doing so, not only are the youth getting to experience the joys of working outside with the soil, but they are reaping the rewards of their efforts by enjoying the fresh vegtables they have cultivated and harvested.

The Department of Juvenile Justice congratulates the Waycross Regional Youth Detention Center youth and staff for embracing the concepts of the Wellness Program through the creation of this unique and impressive vegetable garden.




     Xena the Warrior Puppy at the Marietta RYDC DJJ Staff  at:  5/20/2014  

Xena the Warrior Puppy at the Marietta RYDC

Recently, Xena the Warrior Puppy, the ASPCA's Dog of the Year, made a special visit to the Marietta RYDC to help share the message about perservering against long and low survival odds and how animal friendship can improve the quality of life for those individuals with serious illness. Appearing before a packed house, Xena the Warrior Puppy wowed the Marietta RYDC youth and served as a reminder that past traumas and problems can be overcome and a better life be found.

Below is the orginal story from the Today show on the past sorrow and current success of Xena the Warrior Puppy. Special thanks goes out to Linda Hickey for bringing Xena the Warrior Puppy to the Marietta RYDC, Deputy Commissioner of Secure Facilities Sarah Draper for arrangements, and the DJJ Communications Team for helping to photograph and video tape the event.

Xena the Warrior Puppy, rescued from abuse, helps 8-year-old boy with autism

For most of Jonny Hickey’s eight years of life, solitude has suited him just fine.

He adores his mom and dad, of course, and he loves his older brother. He also views some special ed teachers as rare, trusted allies. Still, none of those people could get many words out of him.

It’s not that Jonny can’t talk. He knows how to speak, and he can read with proficiency. But autism left him closed off and isolated. Most of his social interactions result in painful awkwardness; unfamiliar situations can trigger terror, tantrums or both. Seeking comfort and predictability, he’d embrace solitary activities; on a typical day after school, he’d spend hours playing with marbles in silence.

Then, about two months ago, everything changed. Jonny forged a connection so unlikely that people familiar with it describe it as a miracle. His new confidante brings out the best in him — his playfulness, his cute singing voice, his verbal assessments of everything he sees and experiences.

Jonny connected with a dog.

“He is non-stop chatter now!” Jonny’s mother, Linda Hickey told “He has so much to say about his math, about what he did in P.E.

“He is the happiest child that I’ve ever seen him be in eight years.”

A lover and a fighter

Jonny’s transformation begins with the miracle that the dog survived to meet Jonny at all.

Mere months before she bounded into Jonny’s world, the pup was brought to the DeKalb County Animal Services’ shelter in Georgia after she collapsed in someone’s yard. When staff members saw her, they recoiled in shock.

“I’ve been doing rescue probably for about 12 years, and I had never seen a dog that young in that sort of condition,” said Chrissy Kaczynski, who works for Animal Services and is a founding member of the rescue group Friends of DeKalb Animals. “I brought her home with me and I didn’t think she’d make it through the night.”

But with fluids, nutritional supplements and an urgent vet visit, the puppy began to perk up. Veterinary and shelter staff guessed she was about 4 months old and must have been confined — and starved — in a cage before being dumped.

“She was completely dehydrated and her nose was all scabbed over ... like she had been trying to escape something,” Kaczynski said.

Her rapid recovery prompted Kaczynski to dub her “Xena the Warrior Puppy.” A Facebook page soon followed. One local who found Xena’s story irresistible was Linda Hickey, Jonny’s mom.

“Yes, I fell in love with a dog on the Internet!” said Linda, whose family lives in Johns Creek, Ga., with two other lovable dogs that are a bit too old or frail to play non-stop with a young boy.

When Friends of DeKalb Animals announced that Xena, believed to be a Staffordshire terrier mix, was strong enough to appear at a fund-raising event in November, Linda brought her family to meet the puppy in person.

“We were literally there for four minutes, and Xena ran right up to Jonny and my husband,” Linda said. “I already loved this dog, and after I met her, I really loved this dog.”

Not surprisingly, the family adopted Xena soon after.

On their first trial day together — Feb. 11 — Linda decided to bring Xena along in the minivan when she picked Jonny up from school. Jonny smiled widely, then melted in the onslaught of unconditional affection.

“From that very first day, that dog was sitting in his lap in the car seat, giving him all these kisses,” Linda said. “And that’s where she’s been ever since.”

The calming presence of dogs

Research regarding the effects of companion animals on kids with autism is limited but encouraging. One study published earlier this year revealed that children with autism spectrum disorder were more likely to talk, laugh, make eye contact and show other positive social behaviors in the presence of guinea pigs than they were in the presence of toys.

And in a 2006 pilot investigation, children with autism spoke and interacted much more when they could pet dogs or rabbits, throw balls for dogs, ride llamas and engage with animals in other ways during occupational therapy sessions.

For more than a decade, Autism Service Dogs of America has paired children with specially trained dogs that have a calming effect. In the dogs’ presence, kids have an easier time getting through their school days or handling simple outings with their parents.

Just the other day, Linda Hickey tried bringing Jonny to a familiar salon for a haircut. Jonny’s anxieties bested him, and he just couldn’t do it. The next day, Linda turned the haircut into an outing for the whole family, Xena included. Her husband Grant, 50, brought Jonny into the salon, and Linda stayed outside with Xena.

“I’d wave her paw so he could see her,” Linda said. “With Xena there, he got the haircut.”

Xena helps Jonny in other ways as well. He’s always struggled with personal-space issues, but he’s fine with letting the dog lean on him, lie down on him and perch precariously on his lap. It doesn’t matter that she weighs 43 pounds and he weighs 48.

“I’m not a doctor, but I do know Jonny has a zillion sensory issues and I wonder if that pressure is calming for him,” Linda speculated. “Maybe it’s like a beanbag chair. A beanbag chair is great for him because it’s like a giant hug.”

‘A pretty perfect team’

Since the adoption, Linda has been providing updates to Xena’s 19,000-plus fans on Facebook, an activity that’s been a balm to her.

“At first I didn’t tell anyone on Facebook that Jonny had autism, and they fell in love with him without judgment,” Linda said. “And then when I told them all that he had autism, they still loved him. It just brought tears to my eyes, actually.”

Linda’s Facebook experience was so positive she decided to make a YouTube video featuring her son and his dog to lend support for Autism Awareness Month and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, both happening in April.

“My name is Jonny and this is my puppy, Xena,” he says in the video, as his pup rests near him with a supportive paw on his lap. “Well, my Xena was hurt really bad by some not-so-nice people. And I have autism. So I think we make a pretty perfect team to spread the words to be nice to animals, and nice to kids like me.”

While the Hickeys are more hopeful now than they’ve ever been about Jonny’s future, they find it best to focus with laser-like precision on the day they’re living, and possibly the day after that.

“I’m just trying to make every day be the best learning day it can be for Jonny,” said his mother, who works part time as a preschool teacher. “High school, college — I do dream for these things, but right now I have to buckle down and work hard every day to get him there.

“I’m a therapist for Jonny. I’m a teacher for Jonny. It’s non-stop learning here because it has to be. He deserves it.”

What she never expected was that she’d have a back-up therapist and teacher in Xena.

“I really believe God had a plan,” Linda said. “These two were destined to be together — to save each other at a level that humans just can’t understand.”

To learn more about the work of Friends of DeKalb Animals, click here.





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