Call for Wake County to replace Senior Welfare Check program

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WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WNCN) – Several retired Wake County deputies are calling on the current sheriff to restore a senior citizen welfare check program.

Sheriff Gerald Baker officially ended the program yesterday, creating a lot of anguish among seniors who are taking part in that program.

84-year-old Robin Ingram lives alone and counted on the daily welfare checks because her kids all live out of state.

Ingram says the program she’s been participating in for the last 12 years has given her and her family a lot of comfort knowing someone was always checking on her.

She used to keep a note by her phone to remind her to call the sheriff’s office at 3 p.m. if she knew she’d be out of her apartment when the welfare-check call came in.

But now, the reminder does no good because the calls won’t be coming anymore.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Ingram. “Why would he cancel it?”

With blisteringly hot weather set to return this week, there’s a lot of concern for seniors.

Retired Wake County Deputy Steve Hale says his greatest fear is that “people are going to die.”

Hale says he and others are “not only concerned for the senior citizens, but for their families that are under considerable stress.”

The Sheriff’s program was a daily Robo-call which asked you to press “1” if you were okay or “2” if you needed assistance. If you didn’t answer your phone, the system alerted a deputy who came to your door.

Those using it say it’s hard to replace.

“Someone suggested those things you wear around your neck,” said Ingram. “But if you’re unconscious or dead, that won’t do you much good.”

Capitol Chief of Police and former Wake County Deputy Roy Taylor knows all too well about that.

“I personally responded to a woman who fell between her bed and a wall and was in that position 4 days,” he said. “I had to kick in her door.”

The sheriff says seniors with problems should now call 9-1-1.

“That was a Robo-call,” said Ingram. “How much does that cost the sheriff’s department?”

In an interview two weeks ago with CBS 17, the Sheriff said ending the program would free up resources.

“You’re talking about maybe anywhere from nine deputies that it was going to free up to civilian part-timers that’s involved in screening those calls in that system, the funding that it costs,” said Baker. “We’re very budget conscious and we’re wanting to make sure we’re making the most out of taxpayer dollars.”

The sheriff’s office says in the coming days, it will release a list of partnering agencies to assist our senior citizens.

Meanwhile, the retired deputies as well as the Wake County Republican Party are calling on the county commissioners to pick up the program.

Commissioner Matt Calabria tells CBS 17, “Commissioners have asked the county manager to look into this program and determine what, if anything, might be done to allow it to continue.”

He added, “County staff is looking into it now.  I am happy to consider extending the program and expect to hear more from county staff soon.”

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