Submitted by Chief James Hurley
Fernandina Beach Police Department
July 12, 2018 1:30 p.m.
Since Fall 2017 we have been working with our Police Auxiliary Corps (PAC), the Fernandina Beach Police Foundation, (a 501(c)(3) Non-profit), and our community partners Council on Aging, Barnabas, and Seniors Versus Crime, (a program of the Florida Attorney General’s Office), to develop the framework for a new collaborative program initiative called “Safe In Place.” More than twenty home visits have already been conducted and nearly forty seniors have been identified for regular visits.
This program is designed to utilize a minimum of six teams of trained volunteers selected from our Police Auxiliary Corps (PAC) to regularly engage our senior population through home visits in order to assess wellness or crisis issues that might then be addressed in a variety of ways. We hope to make strong connections with our older community members so that we can recognize problems as they occur, such as general health and wellbeing, as well as service needs like plumbing, electrical, air conditioning, structural or safety deficiencies as soon as possible and to react as needed, while always keeping in mind the personal dignity of the individual being served and their wishes for involvement in decision making and any action to be taken.
The goal of this program is to conduct outreach for the purpose of helping seniors live happy, productive lives while remaining in their primary residence. Achieving this goal alone has been shown to improve the quality of life for most adults faced with hard choices due to advanced years, failing health, the recent loss of a spouse or caregiver, and the resulting limitations on their ability to manage day to day routines or provide self-care on a regular basis.
Our two person volunteer teams will provide friendly contact with only those that elect to participate in this program. “Safe in Place” volunteers will work with local referral agencies to accomplish quick fixes to minor problems or to seek assistance already being provided on a regular basis by existing non-profits or health care groups. They will be instructed to report suspicious activity, such as possible elder abuse or financial exploitation, to the police department for follow up and possible criminal investigation.
Training of the volunteer teams was conducted last month by Janice Ancrum, Executive Director, and her staff from the Nassau County Council on Aging. Ms. Ancrum is hopeful that this program will help to connect seniors in need of services with the local agency equipped to provide those services. “This program initiative fills a very critical need in our community. The social interaction achieved during home visits alone has proven immediately beneficial to our clients, and the potential for timely intervention is a wonderful safety net to have in place. This program is a great example of a community caring for itself,” said Ms. Ancrum.
On June 18ththe Safe In Place program received funding from two important donors, while also demonstrating great community support for this program. The First Presbyterian Church of Fernandina Beach awarded a program grant in the amount of $10,000.00, while Taco Bell stepped up with a grant in the amount of $5,000.00. The funding from these two generous donations was used to purchase a dedicated vehicle to carry out the goals of the program, to include allowing our volunteers to regularly visit with “friends and neighbors” signed up for the Safe In Place program. Malcolm Noden, Chair of the Endowment Trust Fund Trustees at First Presbyterian Church, expressed great enthusiasm for this program, while presenting the generous donation to Harry Kegler, Chair of the Fernandina Beach Police Foundation. Dan Lieberman, Director of Loss Prevention at Taco Bell was excited to see his company’s grant foundation involved in such a uniquely personal community initiative.
Those interested in participating in this program, or in referring a family member or neighbor, should contact Janice Ancrum at the Council on Aging (904-261-0701) or Linda Ellis at the Barnabas Center (904-261-7000).