Saturday, April 2, 2016

State money allows for enhanced protection of senior citizens

With extra funding from the state, Athens County is doing more to protect the elderly from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

This effort includes distribution of personal safety alarms, an education campaign, and the formation of a special team to identify gaps in the delivery of services.

Normally, Athens County Department of Job and Family Services is allocated about $3,300 a year by the state to investigate reports of abuse of persons ages 60 and above. But this fiscal year the amount jumped nearly ten-fold to $30,000.

DJFS Director Bob Gallagher welcomes the increase but pointed out the allocation “provides less than half of the true cost of the service provided by the Athens County DJFS to the citizens of the county.”

The Ohio General Assembly also set aside $10 million to encourage counties to develop plans for improving services and to implement those plans. Athens County took advantage of the “one-time-only” offer and was awarded a total of $62,000.

So far, that money has been spent on personal safety alarms, distributed to seniors at various community events.

“These are a small electronic device which, when activated, produce a shrill warning sound similar to a car alarm,” said Gallagher. “The idea being that if (the person is) in a threatening situation or physically incapable of ambulation, the alarm will draw attention from neighbors or bystanders.”

Also, newspaper and radio ads were purchased in Athens to educate people on issues surrounding the elderly.

The advertisements ran “to increase the public awareness and community knowledge about services being available through DJFS to investigate or check in with older persons suspected of being mistreated, neglected or exploited,” said Gallagher. “A public event was held in conjunction with United Seniors which provided a guest speaker who specifically discussed financial and exploitation crimes and scams targeting the elderly.”

In addition, an emergency response radio was bought with some of the $62,000 to ensure the safety of the Adult Protective Services worker when he or she is in the field and unable to receive cell service.”

“Our investigation often leads to parts of the county which do not have reliable or any cell-phone service,” said Gallagher. “In order to remain in touch with the office or the need for calling in an emergency situation, our investigator is now equipped with an 'emergency responder' radio to access that network for communications.”

The biggest part of the special allocation ($50,000) will be spent to meet a series of goals established by Athens County Job and Family Services officials.

“These funds will be used to provide various services to Adult Protective Services clients in areas such as fees for guardianships and mental -health evaluations,” said Tara Wallace, director of Health Services for the Athens agency.

Wallace said Athens County also has established a team of people “willing to collaborate with our APS program, to address gaps in service delivery.” The group has been meeting once a month.

The members are creating “a plan of cooperation between community partners and public agencies… to ensure that the communication among first responders, local law enforcement and the Athens County DJFS is effective and timely,” said Gallagher. “The team has agreed to continue meeting on a regular basis to share information and discuss problems that may occur in the system of care for this vulnerable group of citizens.”

Current members include representatives from the Athens County Sheriff’s office and police departments in Athens and Nelsonville, Area Agency on Aging, Athens Senior Center, Athens County Probate-Juvenile Court and Hopewell Mental Health.

Full Article & Source:
State money allows for enhanced protection of senior citizens

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