Two telephone hotlines – one for veterans and another for senior citizens — could launch later this year to meet the demands of an aging population and tens of thousands of veterans in the Dayton region, organizers say.
The hotlines, dubbed VetsLink and SilverLink under an initial pilot program, can be reached later this year dialing the existing 2-1-1 HelpLink, and pressing the options for each, officials said.
Both new helplines are scheduled to launch this fall and have a smart phone app, an organizer said.
Organizers need to raise $250,000 to launch VetsLink to hire an additional two to four employees in the call center in Dayton, according to J. Thomas Maultsby, president and CEO of the United Way of the Greater Dayton Area. One to two others could be added for SilverLink, which already has in hand $80,000 in donated funding. Today, the non-profit has an 11-person staff to operate the 2-1-1 HelpLink 24 hours a day, seven days a week at its Dayton office.
Finding what’s out there
A myriad of veterans services permeate the Miami Valley, but finding what a veteran needs often takes several phone calls to connect with the right source, Maultsby said.
“After having done some anecdotal research, we found there was a really, really big need,” he said. “… Some of the testimonies that came back said, for example, if I’d known about this my husband and I may not be divorced today, or if we had known (we’d) get connected because we’d been trying, my husband would not have committed suicide over his PTSD. “
Among possible financial sources, Maultsby said organizers will ask the Dayton area defense community for money to fund the hotline for a pilot project. If funding is found, the goal is to launch the service Nov. 11, Veterans Day, he said.
VetsLink could become a statewide hotline over time, Maultsby said.
Cassie B. Barlow, a retired Air Force colonel and former Wright-Patterson Air Force Base commander, said for many veterans, word of mouth is how they find services.
“Not a bad way, but it’s certainly a limited way to do it,” she said. Barlow is organizing a Department of Veterans Affairs initiative to connect former military members with veterans groups and services in the Dayton area.
Thousands of veterans live in the three counties the United Way serves in the Dayton region, including around 43,200 veterans live in Montgomery, 14,100 in Greene, and 3,500 in Preble, according to VA figures. In Ohio, more than 866,o00 live in the Buckeye State.
Linking seniors to services
The cities of Dayton, Kettering Huber Heights, and Centerville – along with the Del Mar Healthcare Fund – have pledged money initially to launch SilverLink, a phone hotline to answer senior citizens’ and their caretakers’ questions, backers say.
“The feedback we started getting from city managers is the population (of the elderly) in Montgomery County is growing,” said Terri M. Leputa, United Way associate vice president of resource development.
Calls will likely cover a wide scope of needs, such as in-home care options to recent retirees who want to volunteer locally, she said.
Kettering, like the other cities, will wait for the results of a pilot program to see if it will pay more to keep the system in operation, said Steven E. Bergstresser, assistant city manager. The city has donated $5,000 for the try-out phase.
“On a 10-year horizon, we certainly see this as being a need for our residents and seniors and seniors-to-be,” he said Wednesday.
Del Mar Healthcare, part of the Dayton Foundation, contributed a $55,000 onetime donation, an official said.
As baby boomers age, they will be a growing percentage of the elderly population. Most recently, U.S. Census Bureau estimates showed Montgomery County has 118.393 people over age 60, Greene County has 34,180 in that age range and Preble County has 9,885.
A research group will meet multiple times with seniors in the four communities to compile a database on what they will most likely ask about on a hotline call, officials said.
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