Friday, March 19, 2010

Wells Police Strives for Well Being of Seniors, Persons with Disabilities

By Jim Kanak
Staff Columnist
The Wells Police Department recently implemented a couple of community-based programs that they want to make residents aware of. The two programs - Good Morning and Registration for At Risk - aim to make sure that Wells residents are safe and secure in their homes.
The Good Morning program targets people 60 years of age and older as well as adults that live alone and are at risk of illness, injury, and/or isolation, and aims to ensure their well-being.
“The program started Jan. 1,” said Lieut. Ruth Farnsworth. “It’s for folks that are 60 and over, are shut-ins and don’t have a lot of social contact. Each morning between 7 and 10 a.m., they call here to check in. If we don’t hear from them, we call them. If they don’t answer, we make a visit. Maybe they have family members who are busy working and can’t check in every morning. This gives folks a way to live in their own homes and still get a daily check-in.”
Farnsworth noted that the program was voluntary on the part of the participant. “The individual must be willing to sign up and call in,” she said. “We have two officers who help out, Eric Roubo and Joshua Stewart. People need to sit down with those officers and talk with them. They talk about things like medications, the name of the person’s doctor, when they are going to be away, etc.”
The service is free to Wells residents. Participants may provide the police department with a key to their house, but are not required to do so, although the police note that having a key would allow them to avoid having to enter a house forcibly if they are unable to communicate with the resident. The resident can cancel participation in the program at any time.
The At Risk program emanated from door-to-door checks the department made during the Dec. 2008 ice storm that resulted in widespread power outages. “We went door-to-door to check on folks and realized that it takes a lot of time,” Farnsworth said. “Then FEMA came out with its At Risk Registration (form).”
That form is a simple document that records the names of the people living in a home, the address and phone number, whether and/or how many pets live there, the name of someone to contact in case of an emergency, and a brief description of any impairment the person might have.
“The form is short and easy,” Farnsworth said. “It is kept confidential and is only used in an emergency.”
The program is meant to alert public safety officials about the location of individuals with special needs, infirmities, and/or impairments to expedite finding and transporting them in case of an emergency. Participants can include people that are dependent on others for routine care, blind or visually impaired, deaf or hearing impaired, require assistance with medications or medical care, use a wheel chair, walker, or cane, have an amputation, are receiving chemotherapy, dialysis, or is bedridden, have a mental health issue, are elderly and/or housebound, or are just concerned about their own well being during an emergency.
“It saves us time if we know who they are,” said Farnsworth. “We could get to these folks quicker if we have to evacuate them. It’s about being able to respond to the folks that really need us.”
The At Risk program is also free to participants. Unlike the Good Morning program, relatives can identify their kin that could benefit from participating. The specific individual does not have to register him or herself. “Family members can ask to put their parents, and so forth, on the list,” Farnsworth said.
Persons interested in either or both programs should contact the Wells Police at 646-9354.