Goal of new sheriff’s program: Ensure seniors are safe

EVERETT — For some folks, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office won’t need a call from a worried relative to check on their well-being.

The department soon will begin using volunteers to make routine calls and monthly visits with people who are aging or disabled but determined to remain living on their own.

The program is called “You Are Not Alone.”

Snohomish County is following the lead of similar initiatives in other parts of the country, including Goodyear, Arizona, and San Diego County.

The goal is peace of mind and security for older adults living alone and for their families.

“It’s a much more pro-active approach,” said Sgt. Ian Huri who heads up the sheriff department’s Office of Neighborhoods. “If we can identify issues earlier, give them that connection to society and to their community, we hopefully can give them a better quality of life.”

Huri is new to the job, a far cry from his previous positions on patrol and as a SWAT team negotiator. The idea of helping people before there is a crisis appeals to him.

“Typically, we are responding to something that has occurred,” he said. “Now we are looking forward and seeing what we can do to avert a crisis.”

These days, he’s on the road recruiting volunteers to help make the calls and the home visits. Many already are volunteers in other sheriff’s department programs.

Marianne Everett, for instance, has spent nearly 10 years as a volunteer. She sees similarities between fledgling “You Are Not Alone” program and the well-established Project Care Track, which also provides a safety net for vulnerable people.

With the care track program, each client is provided a one-ounce electronic bracelet that emits a unique radio signal 24 hours a day. When a client wanders, a call to 911 by the caregiver triggers a rapid response by a trained team within Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue.

In both programs, volunteers will have a chance to get to know the people they are helping, she said.

“We will build up relationships,” Everett said. “That’s a reward in itself.”

The program will be available in unincorporated parts of the county, the City of Snohomish and any other cities where the sheriff’s office provides law enforcement under contract. Those include Granite Falls, Gold Bar, Stanwood and Sultan.

“I’m anticipating a few hundred people to get signed up initially,” Huri said. “We have to be careful how fast we grow.”

Initial plans call for two phone calls and one home visit a month.

Huri has been working closely with Snohomish County Fire District 1. It started a community paramedic program more than a year ago that works with people who have medical needs. The community paramedic makes frequent calls to clients and home visits while connecting them to social and medical services.

Fire District 1, which serves more than 200,000 people in the south county, has seen a steep drop in 911 calls and emergency room visits among the people working with the community paramedic.

In the You Are Not Alone program, telephone calls and home visits by volunteers are made at pre-arranged times.

If the client doesn’t answer the phone call or the door, family, friends and neighbors will be contacted. Several attempts to contact them will be made. If those fail, a deputy will be called to check.

Huri said the program also has a crime prevention element. Isolated people face a higher risk for exploitation from those who target older adults and lack social support, he said. By keeping connected to the community, participants can reduce the chance of becoming victims.

To sign up, seniors must complete a registration form that includes emergency contact information. Unsigned forms cannot be accepted. Participation is free.

For help completing the registration form or to request more information, contact the YANA program at 425-388-7375 or email YANA@snoco.org.

YANA referrals also can be made via phone or email by friends or family members.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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