JOINT RELEASE: Douglas County Commissioners, Douglas County Senior Services and Douglas Public Health Network
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 4, 2023
(Douglas County, Ore.) The Douglas County Board of Commissioners along with Douglas Public Health Network (DPHN) and Douglas County Senior Services are delighted to bring an innovative Emergency Preparedness Program for Seniors in Douglas County to life. On Thursday, March 30, 2023, the trio provided a special presentation about the new program to seniors at the Riddle Bistro Sixty Senior Dining Site during their lunch service. The kick-off presentation, led by DPHN’s Mike Hansen and Rob Gandy summarized details of the education program, reviewed the program handbook and provided the 14 seniors and 4 site workers with their very own emergency starter “Go Kits.” The group presented to Winston seniors on Tuesday, March 28, and plan to visit the other five Douglas County Bistro Sixty Senior Dining sites in Reedsport (April 4), Glide (April 6), Sutherlin (April 11), Yoncalla (April 13) and Glendale (April 18) over the next few weeks. Additionally, DPHN staff is working with Douglas County Senior Services to offer in-home visits that share the program with rural Meals on Wheels customers in Douglas County. The goal is to distribute materials, starter “Go Kits” and provide education outreach to 200 senior households this year.
“Rural communities and seniors are especially vulnerable and disproportionately affected during disasters. When you take a look at the statistics from Hurricane Katrina and the Paradise Fire you see that over half of the deaths related to those disasters were from people over the age of 70. We really need to help each other and our communities be better prepared,” commented Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, Douglas County Public Health Officer.
The program was kick-started using an Elder Services Innovation grant from the Oregon Office of Rural Health, (a service of Oregon Health Sciences University) the trio received in June of 2022. The Elder Service Innovation grant provides an “opportunity to fund innovative projects that create or enhance services for elders to help them age in place in rural Oregon.” Douglas County Commissioners and Douglas County Senior Services contributed an additional $19,300 to the program for emergency supplies and food for the kits. Since receiving the grant and additional funding, the trio, as well as several community partners including the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, American Red Cross, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) teamed up to write and publish a 56-page emergency preparedness handbook mean to be ‘your guide to help you be the help until help arrives.’ The handbook highlights common and regional hazards, preparedness fundamentals, special considerations, kits, and available local resources. It’s important to note that being prepared is different for every single person and people should customize their kits and plans to their needs. The trio and partners also gathered essential items for starter “Go Kits.” Both the handbook and the kits were designed specifically for Douglas County residents. A “Go Kit” contains a three-day supply of essential items for survival in the event of an emergency. The starter “Go Kits” included with this program contain a copy of the handbook, a whistle, waterproof matches, a poncho, an emergency thermal blanket, hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, a flashlight, a lantern with batteries, toilet paper, ready-to-prepare meals, first aid kit, water disinfectant kit, DCSO’s Citizen Alert information, and a backpack. Residents are encouraged to add items to the kit that fit their specific needs including prescription medicines, clothing, pet food, water, personal items and a cell phone charger.
“The more resilient we can make our entire community in preparing for a disaster, weather incident, wildfire or other emergency situation, the stronger we will be as a collective, and the less likely we will need to rely on assistance from already inundated or overwhelmed emergency service providers during a disaster,” stated Teresa Mutschler, Executive Director at DPHN.
According to the 2022 U.S. Census, 26.3% of our total population in Douglas County is 65 years and older. And with seniors being a high-risk group, it’s imperative that we do everything we can to help them prepare and plan in the event of an emergency or disaster. The first paragraph of the handbook, appropriately titled, “Umpqua Prepared”*, really sets the tone for the importance of being prepared. It states, “Did you know Oregon is considered an all-hazard state? While southern Oregon is a beautiful place to live, we are vulnerable to disasters. Many of these disasters have already occurred here and undoubtedly will again.”
“We have lived through and experienced more than our fair share of major disasters in the last few years and believe me there will be more. If we had this program before those occurred, then we could have been better prepared and been able to better prepare our residents, especially our seniors,” commented Douglas County Board Chair and Commissioner Tom Kress. “Taking steps now (as a matter of urgency and priority) to improve the safety of our citizens before a disaster occurs is very important, as we never know when the next disaster will strike.”
Due to the recognition and kudos they have already received for the program, DPHN has applied for more grant dollars in order to continue to expand this program and perhaps design a model template for other rural Oregon counties. The Oregon Office of Rural Health awards three $7,500 Elder Service Innovation grants each fiscal year to innovative projects around Oregon. For more information about the current grant-funded projects or to learn more about the Office of Rural Health and the Elder Services Grant log onto https://www.ohsu.edu/oregon-office-of-rural-health. *For copies of the Umpqua Prepared handbook or for an electronic copy, please contact DPHN via their website at www.douglaspublichealthnetwork.org or call (541) 440-3571.
Photo: ©K.Trenkle-Douglas County.
Douglas County Senior Services Department supports and enhances a structure of social, protective and health services for seniors throughout Douglas County. Douglas County Senior Services is one of seventeen Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) in Oregon and one of 600 located throughout the United States. This structure serves to provide an opportunity for continued independence, dignity and a higher quality of life for seniors, age 60 and over. Douglas County’s seven rural Senior Dining Sites and Meals on Wheels programs are managed by Douglas County Senior Services Department. Our Bistro Sixty Senior Dining Sites prepare meals on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at our seven rural dining site locations in Glide, Glendale, Reedsport, Riddle, Sutherlin, Winston, and Yoncalla for din-in service and delivery via our Meals on Wheels programs.
DPHN is a not-for-profit organization serving all of Douglas County. Douglas County has a unique model for its public health system - and that model has enabled it to respond nimbly and effectively. Public health services used to be provided directly by Douglas County until January 2016, when the department was decentralized and DPHN was formed as a nonprofit. They contract with the County to oversee communicable disease, vaccination education, emergency preparedness, public health modernization, prescription and illegal drug overdose prevention, and tobacco prevention programs. The County still retains public health authority, but DPHN and its partners provide the public health services, operating as a consortium of nonprofits and for-profit businesses.