by Chris Edwards
For many on the outside (as well as most residents, no doubt) Tyler County appears as some sort of utopia amid the lanes of loblolly; a place where young and old alike can thrive in peace.
The fact remains like everywhere else in our world, some darkness does dwell; however there are people making a difference and helping to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Sammie Martinez-Brown, director of marketing at Woodville Health and Rehab and Ken Jobe, human resources director at Tyler County Hospital, are working with Adult Protective Services in Tyler County. "We're trying to rebuild and get APS active in Tyler County," Jobe said.
As a state agency operating under the Department of Family and Protective Services, APS investigates abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults who are elderly or have disabilities. Any adult who has a disability or who is age 65 or older over who is in a state of abuse, neglect or exploitation is eligible to receive adult protective services, according to its website.
The agency accepts volunteer workers to serve on its board of directors, a county entity. It is a responsibility anyone with a passion can undertake, Brown said.
"We raise money to assist the APS workers and raise money to help those in need with household staples and with utility work," Jobe said, to give a couple of examples of the many types of assistance APS provides. "The money we raise stays in Tyler County," he said.
Brown made note of some of the fundraising activities APS has been involved with, including the last Tours for Charity. Tours for Charity is a quarterly event that spotlights a different non-profit organization in the county each time. APS was the beneficiary of the fundraiser in July. APS will also take part in the upcoming Senior Expo.
APS has a place to keep donated household staples called the Silver Room. It is where items such as paper towels, soap, razors, etc. are stored for those in need and there is always a need for donations.
Brown became involved with APS in part due to her job, which entails working with the elderly and/or disabled, but also from something she witnessed. "What made me passionate about the cause was when I went to an APS house and saw how someone lived. It just broke my heart."
Jobe decided to work with APS after being invited to a board meeting. "I hadn't heard a lot about APS," he said. "After I learned what they did, I decided I'd really like to be a part of it."
"Our goal with APS is to get people to think about APS as quickly as people think of CPS [for cases of child abuse and/or neglect]," Jobe said.
When investigating cases, there are three classes of abuse or neglect that a caseworker looks for: financial exploitation, abuse and neglect. "There are disabled and/or elderly people who are not only being abused physically, but financially, as well," Jobe said. Brown added that "some people live alone, yet probably shouldn't."
Brown said that several different county-wide organizations are represented by the people who serve on the APS board. "There are many different people who run into the things APS deals with who are involved," she said. "Dogwood Trails' social worker is on our board; we all work together."
APS meets at the Dept. of Human Services building from 4 to 5 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month. "Anybody can come and check it out," Brown said. For more information, contact the local office at 409-283-3765. APS also has a statewide hotline to report suspected and/or incidents of abuse or neglect. That toll-free number is 1-800-252-5400.