Sunday, January 09, 2000

Butler program checks on elderly residents

'Are You OK' calls daily

Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — When Butler County Sheriff Harold “Don” Gabbard helped establish a program to call senior citizens every day to check on them, a problem like Hamilton resident Mary Southard's is exactly what he had in mind.

        Mrs. Southard, who is 75 and uses a walker, fell late Dec. 26 and couldn't reach the phone to call for help. More than 12 hours later — with Mrs. Southard still lying on the floor — the automated system called. When she didn't answer, police and Mrs. Southard's brother, Don Jones, were sent to the home and found her.

        Though uninjured, Mrs. Southard spent four days in the hospital for observation. She is now recovering with family members.

        “That program most likely saved her life,” said Lonzo Jones, Mrs. Southard's nephew. “I just want to thank the program. It's definitely a nice friend to have if you are an elderly person.”

        The program is part of Triad, an organization for seniors sponsored by the sheriff's office, the Ohio Crime Prevention Association and the American Association of Retired Persons. The local group was started in 1996 and began its “Are you OK?” component in mid-1997. A computer dials the 110 enrolled seniors every day. If no one picks up the phone after three calls, police are automatically sent to the person's home. The service is free.

        “This was without a doubt one of Sheriff Gabbard's goals when we started this program,” said Butler County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Mike Craft. “We're just very, very proud of the overall accomplishments of the program.”

        The local Triad also operates a clearinghouse of information on contractors that have done work for the elderly. The seniors' evaluations of the firms are available to other seniors in the area. At the holidays, Triad volunteers and deputies visit the members and brings gifts.

        Mrs. Southard has been on “Are you OK?” since August, 1998, said Cleo Ketay, program assistant for Triad. “Had she not been on the program, she could still be laying there if the family didn't check on her very often,” Mrs. Ketay said. “There's a lot of people that should be on the program.”

        To enroll in the “Are you OK?” program or get information about other Triad services, call 887-5694.


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