Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky 2021-02-22 13:12:48 –
For the past six years, Officer James McGrath has become accustomed to answering a wide variety of phone calls of all kinds while working at the Maynard Police Station. But last year, COVID-19 made it difficult to connect with the community in which he served.
“I find it difficult to build relationships with people with masks. People just don’t recognize me,” McGrath said when he turned down the main street in this small New England town.
He is particularly worried about the elderly living here in Maynard, Massachusetts.
“I think older people are especially afraid to go everywhere now,” he said.
So, in order to stay connected to the community and help those who are susceptible to COVID-19, the police station has begun offering vehicles to older people who cannot make vaccination appointments.
Chief Mike Noble, Officer McGrath’s boss, recently realized the need and began thinking about how the department could help.
“This is a group of people who are dying from it,” he said with his seniors about the virus.
Due to the slow deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine across the country, older people often struggled to reach their appointment. As a result, Chief Noble and other departments began answering different types of calls. We offer free rides to vaccination sites in this town of 10,000 people.
“I have isolation, depression, and anxiety. If there is anything I can do to relieve it, at least they know they have a fallback plan,” Noble said.
The need to help older people who do not have access to transportation was personally revealed to Chief Noble a few weeks ago. His 77-year-old mother, Jane, managed to get an appointment for vaccination, but had no way to get there. Without the help of Chief Noble and his brother, she might not have reached her appointment.
“Even before COVID, transportation was already a problem for many of these people,” he explained.
People over the age of 65 are less likely to go to the vaccination site because they are not licensed, have no access to a car, or have no one to help them drive. AARP estimates that one in five Americans is 65 or older, and nearly eight million of them are not driving. Even public transport is not an option for many older people, as an estimated 15.5 million Americans over the age of 65 live in areas with poor public transport services.
“We are in the service business, not only law enforcement agencies, but also local caretakers,” Noble said of the boarding program.
Due to the cancellation of festivals and events in the town, Maynard police were able to allocate money to the program to cover overtime and gas bills. Other departments in the region have been informed about the program and are implementing similar ideas.
“When this population is the most vulnerable, we have to think about what we can do to help them,” Noble added.
So far, only a handful of people have taken up the department at their offer. However, they are expected to change as more people are vaccinated throughout Massachusetts in the coming weeks.