COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – In honor of Diabetes and Stroke Alert Day, Piedmont Columbus Regional held a special program dedicated to informing law enforcement about the similarities in symptoms found in those under the influence of alcohol and those suffering from a medical emergency.

The program focused on educating law enforcement on the warning signs of diabetes, strokes, and mental illnesses.

Some of the common symptoms found in those suffering from diabetes, strokes, mental illness, and those intoxicated with alcohol are slurred speech and the inability to stand or walk straight.

The event also featured a speech from Russell County Probate Judge Allford Harden, where he shared his personal experience with handling a medical emergency as result of suffering from diabetes.

After dealing with a medical emergency himself, Judge Harden emphasizes how crucial it is for law enforcement to understand the difference between someone who may be suffering from a stroke, hypoglycemia, or going through a mental health crisis and someone who is intoxicated.

“I think there’s more awareness now because of diabetes, and maybe they are a little bit more aware at the time. However, it still does happen,” said Harden. “You know, people are experiencing low blood sugar, or they are experiencing a stroke, and officers following them; they look like a drunk. So they would, of course, immediately discern that they may be a drunk, and once they are on the scene, if they are educated, then they can discern is it a diabetic, or a stroke, or a mental illness.”

Russell County Law Enforcement also received advice from both medical and other law enforcement officers who have dealt with someone who is suffering from a medical emergency while on the job on how to determine if someone is under the influence of alcohol or if they are suffering from a medical emergency.

Currently, according to Judge Harden, law enforcement are unable to confirm if individuals suffering from medical emergencies, especially emergencies that cause someone to exhibit similar symptoms to an intoxicated person, until after arranging a toxicology test.

To combat further incidents, the Piedmont Columbus Regional program also featured medical professionals who shared the warning signs of diabetes, strokes, and mental illness and present techniques officers should use when dealing with someone suffering from the three specific illnesses.

Although the program only lasts for a day, Piedmont Columbus Regional continues to partner with law enforcement to ensure nearby communities in Alabama and Georgia are better served.