Wake County sheriff ending senior well-check program

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Wake County Sheriff Gerlad Baker announced he is pulling the plug on the well-check program and many locals seniors say they now feel like they’ve lost their peace of mind.

The program’s been in place for the past 16 years and was created by previous Sheriff Donnie Harrison to check on the senior citizens who live alone and don’t have family nearby.

For the past 12 years, that 3 p.m. phone call has been a real comfort to 84-year-old Robin Ingram.

“It’s like a robocall that comes at 3 o’clock every day and they call and ask if you’re alright and if you are you press one and that’s it,” explained Ingram.

It’s called the senior well-check program and it’s run by the Wake County Sheriff’s Office. 

“They try twice on your phone and your cellphone. If there’s no answer they then call your next of kin and if that doesn’t work, the sheriff comes around, but in all this time I’ve been doing it 12 years, I think the sheriff only had to come to see me once, maybe twice,” said Ingram.

Baker announced that the program will be ending on July 1.

“I’m very concerned because I live alone,” said Ingram. “I have two sons, but one lives in Florida and one lives in Colorado so there’s nobody here in the whole state and I could die, couldn’t I? And somebody might not find me for a week.”

“Well, ending it was the same thing as trying to make it better and to be able to serve Wake County instead of 100 something seniors,” Baker said. “There are approximately 91,000 seniors in Wake County and there were a lot of people who wanted to be a part of that program but there just wasn’t room for it.”

Sylvia O’Connell, 72, depends on the program too.

“Not every 65-year-old and older need someone to call them,” said O’Connell. “A lot of people have family that check up on them. A lot of them probably live with their family. I have nobody to check up on me and it’s quite frightening to think I could fall and lay there for hours and days before somebody missed me.”

Baker says if anyone is concerned about their family members, all they have to do is call the sheriff’s office and they’ll still come to check on them.

CBS 17’s Kelly Kennedy asked Baker if anything would be replacing this program.

“Well there’s some resources that are available and we’ll be getting information out to the people who are accustomed to getting that call every day. A group of volunteers who focuses on targeting and helping seniors, they’ll be more than happy to help, out they’ve indicated that they’ll make those types of calls, they’re looking for something to do,” said Baker.

“You can’t expect volunteers to do that,” said Ingram. “Who volunteers to call 100 people 365 days a year? I mean that’s ridiculous.”

Baker says the program used a lot of the department’s resources.

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

Ingram still doesn’t know what she’ll do now.

“It’s a week ago I heard, so I’m still like stunned,” she said. “It seems like such a mean thing to do to old people.”

Harrison started the program after his mother passed away alone at home in 1999. He says he’s disappointed Baker is ending the program because he knows it saved a lot of lives. Baker said the Volunteer Center for Cary, In-Home Connection, and Resources for Seniors have all expressed interest in helping.

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