CARES to coordinate access to resources
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Older Belmont County residents soon will have help to make them aware of what resources are available to them, especially when it comes to heath care.
The Cumberland Trail Fire District is spearheading a new Community Access, Resources, Education and Solutions – or CARES – program.
Fire Chief Tim Hall presented the program before the Belmont County commissioners Wednesday. The commissioners are providing some initial funds for the program. Hall said the genesis for a local CARES program began in 2021 during a conversation with a friend.
“We were discussing some programs already in place in the county and how they could be expanded and improve the quality of life for the county’s more vulnerable residents,” Hall said. Hall said some benefits might allow elderly residents to remain in their homes longer. He noted that about 26 percent of the county population consists of older individuals, and he has worked with Belmont County Senior Services and the Department of Job and Family Services.
He later learned about the CARES program offered through the New Philadelphia Fire Department and saw it could be applicable to Belmont County.
“At times, we encounter residents in EMS that may not need an emergency service and they’re just not aware of the resources available to them, so they call 911. The program is countywide and is designed to also include other EMS departments in the county to assist them in their time of need, if requested,” he said.
Hall said he, Assistant Chief Dan Grady and the rest of the fire district are working in conjunction with the Belmont County Health Department, Belmont County Senior Services, Belmont County DJFS and Ohio Hills Health Services. Representatives from those entities were at the presentation Wednesday.
“Whether it be assisting a resident with their prescriptions, setup of a medical alert device, installing grab rails in the bathroom, carbon monoxide detector, smoke detector or just needing assistance navigating the health care system with scheduling of doctor’s appointments and/or transportation,” he said. “This program is the epitome of governmental agencies working together for the betterment of county residents.”
Hall said they hope to have the program in operation by Nov. 1. The coordinator position calls for someone with a community health worker certification through the Board of Nursing, a background in fire and EMS services and strong public relations and communications skills.
He said one major task will be spreading word of the program and letting residents know they can call a coordinator for assistance. The coordinator will attend senior services meetings regularly and otherwise reach out.
“The biggest obstacle we face, I think, is making sure we get the word out,” Hall said, “disseminating the information to the county residents and letting them know what’s available to them.”
The CARES program will employ one full-time person through the fire district. The commissioners are providing up to $70,000 yearly. Additional grant funding of $18,000 is being provided by Access Tusc out of Tuscarawas County, Ohio. The goal is for the program to eventually be self-funded through grants.
“We’re going to help them get the program started, just to get it off the ground,” Commissioner Josh Meyer said. “We’re glad to be a part of this program. It’ll help a lot of individuals in Belmont County. I think it’s a great program and it’ll do a lot of good.”
Department of Job and Family Services Director Jeff Felton said the program should be useful, since a large portion of the population of the county is older or may need additional help.
“In terms of our Adult Protective Services clients, probably at least 15 of our seniors a month could probably use this type of service coordination,” he said. “Once they get somebody hired, I think it’s going to be like the Field of Dreams, build it and they will come.”
“Once people know that the service is there, we’re going to realize how much of a need we weren’t aware of,” Senior Services Director Lisa Kazmirski said. “Chief Hall and Assistant Chief Grady deserve a lot of respect for everything they’ve done. They’ve been persistent and they’ve accomplished their goal, and it’s going to be good for the people of Belmont County.”