By: Erin Smith
Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker, in partnership with local municipal law enforcement agencies and other public safety agencies, is gearing up to launch a new initiative called “Are You Okay?” to help ensure the safety and welfare of the elderly and shut-ins in Bladen County. The target launch date is May 1.
During a meeting on Tuesday morning in the Bladen County Emergency Operations Center, Sheriff McVicker introduced the idea to several community partners. He told those in attendance that he learned about the program at a recent Sheriff’s Association meeting.
The “Are You Okay?” program is an automated system that contacts residents at a designated time each day. If no one answers after a reasonable number of attempts, the system then notifies the closest law enforcement agency to respond to perform a welfare check. If no law enforcement officer is available, then other public safety units will be dispatched to assess the situation.
Sheriff McVicker said that the program is for any Bladen County resident 65 years of age or older. Those wishing to take part in the program will be asked to complete a form and note which fire district they reside in and whether they are located in the county or a municipality. The sheriff’s office will send someone to each residence and meet face-to-face with the resident or residents and to retrieve the completed forms. In addition to the form, there is a waiver and a consent form that must be signed granting permission for the responding agency to contact a key holder and enter the residence to assess the situation. Sheriff McVicker also added that the officers will take a picture of the individual in the event the person should wander away from home. This way, said Sheriff McVicker, law enforcement will have a current photo.
He said that when he first learned about the program, he went to talk to Joan Allen at the Bladen County Division on Aging and she immediately offered her support. McVicker said what made him think of this was he recalled Debbie Tolar kept a list at her desk and she would go down the list and call each person each day.
The “Are You Okay?” system can hold up to 10,000 contacts. Sheriff McVicker said that currently Wake County has about 300 people signed up for their system and Allegheny County also uses the system.
“Our population is aging and the Baby Boomer generation is contributing to the increase in the number of those over age 65,” said McVicker. “If this program saves one life then it will be worth it. Anyone wishing to become a part of this program should contact the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office at 910-862-6960 and ask for Sheryl Young. She will be able to provide information for those wishing to subscribe.”
The service is provided for residents of Bladen County who are over 65 years of age or has dementia, Alzheimer’s or a cognitive or physical disability.