Olentangy Valley News

Council hopes to handle more nonemergency calls

FIRST program lets council help seniors, frees up police, fire for dire situations

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The Council for Older Adults of Delaware County is looking to expand a program that helps connect frequent callers to county fire departments to resources for seniors.

The council has paired four county departments with civilian service coordinators over its two-year history.

Delaware, Genoa Township and, recently, Orange Township have added service coordinators to their staffs through the First in Response to Seniors Team, or FIRST, program.

Council spokeswoman Donna Meyer said the coordinators can follow up by phone or in person with the department's frequent callers to help them solve nonemergency problems.

For example, Meyer said, Orange Township's fire department was receiving calls every day from one resident who needed help getting in and out of bed. That's "obviously not a good use of fire department staff," she said.

Service coordinators can get those frequent callers in touch with resources such as Meals on Wheels, medical transportation or other home-health services in order to ease the burden on the fire departments.

"This really gives them support, and that's what we hope to be: support for the first-responders," said Karen Waltermeyer, the council's client services manager.

Waltermeyer said the program is based in part on the Services to Age in Your Upper Arlington, or STAY UA, program launched through the Upper Arlington Fire Division in 2009.

The part-time positions are funded via $111,000 in grants from the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging, with a 15 percent match from the council.

The council also is in talks to restore the service coordinator position at the Liberty Township Fire Department. That department was the first to add a coordinator in November 2012 but axed the position shortly after when voters rejected a levy that month.

Although the position did not cost the department any money, Waltermeyer said the levy's failure resulted in a staff restructuring that led to the program's cancellation.

"There wasn't really the time or resources to provide the on-site supervision for a new program," she said.

Liberty Township officials and Fire Chief Tim Jensen discussed the service at the board of trustees' meeting July 7.

Jensen said the department would provide only a desk, a phone and Internet access to the coordinator. He said seniors make a majority of the calls to the department, and many could benefit from services offered by the council or other agencies.

"It's not a huge need yet, but I can tell you that well over 50 percent of the calls we're taking EMS-wise are for our residents that are 60 or (older)," he said.

Jensen said the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing a tentative agreement between the township and the council to restore the service.

Waltermeyer said she's heard positive feedback from participating departments since the program started. She said it's her hope the FIRST program eventually will be in place anywhere in the county where a need exists.

"Our goal is to make this service available to everyone throughout Delaware County," she said.

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