Officials address care for special-needs residents

Monday, September 18, 2006

Survey received about 1,000 responses indicating people with special needs.

The state of Missouri and some local agencies and facilities are preparing emergency response procedures geared toward special-needs residents.

In a statement made early last week, state director of Public Safety Mark James said he and several other state officials were working together to produce an additional section for the state's emergency response plan to address persons with disabilities or special needs.

Locally, such a development for a plan has been in the works for about a year, according to David Hitt, Cape Girardeau County's emergency operations coordinator.

"It's needed," Hitt said. "There are a lot of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the area."

When last year's tax assessments were mailed out, Hitt also sent a survey to homeowners asking if any of them had special needs in the event of a disaster.

Of the approximately 32,000 surveys sent out, about 1,000 responded with special needs ranging from diabetes to being bedridden.

Working together

The ultimate goal is to get various facilities in Cape Girardeau County to discuss their plans and how they might help one another in the event of a disaster, Hitt said.

Jeff Hanke, director of environmental services at Chateau Girardeau, said the home is planning on improving all their evacuation plans and are working with Hitt.

"Our average age is 84 years old, and we do have some people with some limitations," he said, adding there was a need for specialized procedures.

Jackson Manor administrator Dave Walker said his home has 34 plans for a variety of different disasters.

"It's just a good idea to be prepared," he said.

This fall, the Department of Health and Senior Services is planning to distribute a video specially designed for citizens in long-term or assisted living facilities, or those with special needs, the release stated.

Persons with special needs are encouraged to keep an emergency supply kit stocked with their medications, medical records and other specialized equipment for their needs, the release stated.

"It's just common-sense things that you would need to get along for X number of days if the outside world is so messed up you can't go to the pharmacy," Hitt said.

kmorrison@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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