Register now to stay at special needs shelter

By Times Staff Writer
Published July 5, 2005

Hernando County offers a special needs shelter that is available during natural disasters, such as hurricanes, when residents are encouraged or ordered to evacuate.

Preregistration is required so the shelter can be adequately prepared and staffed.

The special needs shelter provides medical care to people with physical or mental disabilities or serious medical conditions that require observation, assessment or maintenance.

Supervised by registered nurses from the Hernando County Health Department and staffed by volunteers who assist with nonspecialized tasks, the shelter is designed to provide a safe, secure environment, but is not a substitute for hospitals, assisted living or long-term care facilities. Caregivers should accompany each person who has a medical or health care need when possible.

The special needs shelter can accommodate people with the following medical needs or conditions: chronic respiratory conditions requiring oxygen/nebulizers; recent but stable cardiac conditions; insulin-dependent diabetes (when patients are unable to care for themselves and do not have a competent caregiver); feeding tubes; Foley catheter or ostomy (when patients are unable to care for themselves and do not have a competent caregiver); wound care and dressing changes; recent eye surgery (when patients cannot care for themselves and do not have a caregiver), Alzheimer's; and communicable diseases or infections.

The shelter cannot accommodate people with the following conditions or medical needs: ventilators, tracheotomy, apnea, recent unstable cardiac patients, equipment that requires electricity (except oxygen), third trimester pregnancy or high-risk pregnancy.

For information about preregistration, call Hernando County Emergency Management Services at 754-4083 or any home health agency. Registration forms are available online at www.co.hernando.fl.us/em/SpNeeds.htm Completed forms are to be mailed to Hernando County Emergency Management, Special Needs Program, 20 N Main St., Brooksville, FL 34601.

Registration is free, voluntary and confidential. Information will remain in the registry for up to one year and needs to be updated annually. Prior registrants will receive new forms in the mail; those who do not reply or cannot be reached are removed from the registry.