Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Marin Civil Grand Jury urges senior referral program to be used countywide
A successful San Rafael program that provides information and assistance to senior citizens should be implemented throughout the county, according to the Marin County Civil Grand Jury.
The program, started by the city in 2014, has firefighters, police and other “first responders” assess the particular needs of seniors who call 911 because of falls or other health problems. That information is relayed to county social workers, who contact the seniors and help them get the help they need.
The program was started as an effort to provide preventative care to seniors and slow the growing volume of 911 calls made by seniors seeking assistance, according to the report, titled “The 911 First Responder Referral Program: More than a Band-Aid for Seniors.”
“Even relatives and loved ones often do not understand the struggles seniors go through as they age and cope with the complications of life,” said San Rafael fire Chief Chris Gray, who helped start the program with Barry Phegan, a volunteer with a senior-focused nonprofit. “Our hope is to help them at an earlier stage before there is a negative event.”
Gray said seniors are often unaware of the resources available to them, including many Marin fire departments offering free home safety inspections, as well as inspections to ensure the interior of residences do not put residents at risk of falling.
Seniors and their caregivers not interested in learning about available programs are left with information about how they can connect with resources at a later time.
Before 2015, San Rafael fire personnel had been referring seniors to an automated phone system that connected them to a variety of services. But early last year the fire department began partnering with the county’s Department of Health and Human Services’ “Information and Assistance” program.
“Information and Assistance” consists of social workers who work to find the best solutions for seniors at no cost.
“We shaped it so it’s not someone calling and getting a voicemail,” said Lee Pullen, director of the county’s Aging and Adult Services department. “We wanted to be able to answer the phones live as much as possible, and assess what the situation is and have followup with them so they’re not just getting the runaround.”
To more efficiently identify seniors who could benefit from additional services, 60 San Rafael fire personnel and 40 police officers have been trained to recognize patients with age-related problems.
In 2015, the fire department referred 41 people to the “Information and Assistance” program. Those 41 residents in prior years were responsible for more than 375 calls to emergency personnel, and 90 percent of the calls were fall-related. Some of those residents made up to three fall-related calls in a day, according to the report.
The Marin County Fire Chiefs Association has expressed interest in rolling out a similar program, and the grand jury report urges the program be picked up by emergency agencies across Marin.
“We commend the program,” said John Mann, foreman for the 2015-16 grand jury. “We think it’s a great program.”
June 19, 2016
Marin Independent Journal
By Stephanie Weldy