Jacksonville begins Senior Watch Program

JACKSONVILLE — Seniors who live alone and can't leave their homes or don't have others to check on their well-being will benefit from a new Police Department service.

Residents 60 or older or disabled adults who are at least 55 and have a life-threatening illness or injury can participate in the Senior Watch Program, which offers several levels of checks.

"There are a lot of people in town, especially in Royal Mobile Estates, who are over 60 years old," said Police Chief Dave Towe. "We are just trying to help those who don't have someone to look in on them or someone who might be at risk."

Police already check on residences at the owner's request when they leave town on vacation, so extending checks to residents' welfare seemed a logical step, the chief said.

"The troops are already on the street," said Towe. "It's not like we are running from call to call."

One family already has used the program, which was announced at the beginning of the month.

"I had one citizen give us a call about it. She was going to be out of town and her elderly mother was going to be home alone," said Police Clerk Kathy Tiller. "She had me call to make sure she was OK and didn't need anything."

Initially, potential clients will contact the department. An appointment will be scheduled for the community services officer to conduct a home visit to meet the client, complete an emergency information sheet and help the person choose an appropriate program. Three types of service are available.

Under Check In, a senior who lives alone calls in daily. If a call is not received an officer will call or stop by to check on the client.

Elderly Call establishes a schedule where the police department calls the senior on designated days at set times. If there is no response an officer will be sent to the person's home.

For those who may need additional help, Senior Watch provides for a visit by police personnel or a volunteer on a weekly or more frequent basis to check on a client's welfare.

A newly established, year-round, part time community service officer, who will also serve as code enforcement officer, will perform much of the work. Previously the city had hired a CSO just during the summer. The City Council has approved the plan.

Interviews are under way to find a person to fill the dual position.

"The person will do CSO work one day and whatever code work needs to be done the next and kind of bounce back and forth," said Towe.

Checks can help prevent situations where seniors alone may be incapacitated without the ability to call for assistance and with no one checking on them, said Towe.

"For some of these people, this may be the only contact they may have during the week," said Towe. "If we are that point of contact that can brighten their day, so be it."

For sign-up information, call the department at 541-899-7100.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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