Deputy Jeff Gray Earns Kalaman Award from Noon Optimists
As a patrol officer in the northern part of Washington Township, Deputy Jeff Gray noticed that some older adults on his beat could use a hand.
On his own initiative, he began looking after them – checking in to confirm their wellbeing, engaging in conversation, helping with security issues, dropping off birthday cakes, and even helping with home repairs and transportation to medical and financial appointments.
Gray’s selfless acts and advocacy for older adults has led Washington Township to establish the STAR Program – short for Safeguarding Township Adult Residents – to keep seniors and at-risk residents safe, assist them in times of emergency, and connect them to existing services when needed. It also has earned him recognition from the Noon Optimist Club of Centerville which has presented him with the John P. Kalaman Respect for Law Award.
“Deputy Gray’s impact on the community is truly something special. I often receive telephone calls, emails and thank you cards from residents who are sincerely touched, and often times amazed, by his service to the community,” says Captain Jeff Papanek, director of the Washington Township Substation of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
More than 65 residents have signed up so far for STAR and the list is growing by the week, Papanek said. Residents who participate receive periodic visits from Gray who follows up on home security topics ranging from peep holes to security lighting and addresses issues such as price gouging by contractors. In one instance, Gray encountered a resident who lost $7,000 in a telephone scam, so he followed up by contacting the man’s bank and started regular visits to his home. When the resident withdrew more cash, Gray was able to prevent it from being turned over to the scammer. Then he drove the man to the bank so that he could redeposit several thousand dollars into his account.
Last year, Gray recommended that the township establish a program to address the issues confronting senior residents, then researched and reported on similar programs in other communities. “We have our own program for residents because of his initiative,” said Papanek. “It’s safe to say that many senior residents have a better quality of life because of him.”
Since the program was formalized earlier this year, Gray has introduced these voluntary services for residents who sign up for STAR:
• Emergency Medical Forms – First responders and hospital staff can better help patients when they have access to pertinent medical information, including medical history, prescriptions, living wills and a preferred hospital. Gray collects information from STAR Program participants, walking them through the process when needed, then helps with updates twice each year. Information is posted on the resident’s refrigerator and the STAR Program retains a copy.
• Emergency Contacts – When people live alone, it may not be clear who to contact in an emergency. First responders may be required to track down information about relatives by knocking on doors and making follow up phone calls. In the process, valuable time is lost. Residents in the STAR Program provide their emergency contacts in advance so that families can connect quickly with each other.
• Front Door Lock Boxes – In an emergency, first responders can gain entry more quickly, and with less damage to the home, if residents have a lock box on the front door with a key inside. Residents can order the boxes through the STAR Program for $23. Gray will purchase the boxes and save the lock box code so that it’s available to first responders.
All participant information is kept on file with the STAR officer, a policy that already has proved to be of benefit. In one recent instance, a resident fell at home while alone and pressed her medical alert pendant. Gray recognized her name and address when it appeared on his mobile data terminal, used the lock box code to gain entry, and was able to quickly provide her medical information to paramedics.
Even better, participants will soon have their information entered into the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center system. When an emergency occurs at a STAR residence, dispatchers and first responders will see medical information, emergency contacts, and the lock box code before even reaching the scene.
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