2007-04-06 / Community

United States Postal Carriers To Look Out For Seniors Citizens

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has announced New York City's new Carrier Alert Program, which trains United States Postal Service letter carriers to identify signs of distress among seniors and people with disabilities and quickly connect them with social services through the City's Department for the Aging.

The program, which triggers the use of 311 or 911 when signs of distress are identified, provides seniors and people with disabilities with a special identification sticker or magnet to be placed inside their mailbox. Letter carriers will now be trained on the Carrier Alert protocol, using an instructional video created by the United States Postal Service, with the participation of Mayor Bloomberg.

"Nobody knows our neighborhoods better than the letter carriers who visit the homes of seniors and people with disabilities every day," Mayor Bloomberg said. "The Carrier Alert program will allow us to stay connected with our elderly, homebound and disabled New Yorkers.

Letter carriers, who in many cases are the first people to recognize signs of distress, will now be empowered to act at the first signs of trouble. Through the use of 311, we can revive this common sense program and make it more accessible to New Yorkers."

Though the idea of a carrier alert program was conceived in New York City in the mid-1970's, the National Carrier Alert program was created in 1982 under President Ronald Reagan. Long dormant in New York City, it began as a cooperative community service program to monitor the well-being of elderly and disabled mail patrons. As one of the few - and some days only - points of human contact for homebound patrons, letter carriers are particularly attuned to signs of a possible accident or illness.

Participation in the program is voluntary and a public service campaign will be created to encourage seniors and people with disabilities to sign up for the program. Eligible Carrier Alert applicants must have an external mailbox or an apartment building mail bank where a USPS letter carrier deposits mail.

To participate in the program seniors and people with disabilities should call 311 or download a registration kit available online at www.nyc.gov . Upon completion of the application, participants will receive a sticker or a magnet for the interior of their mailbox. Participants must cover the sticker if they are to be away from the home for an extended period of time for a vacation or hospital stay.

"I am excited to revive the Carrier Alert Program here in New York City because our dedicated, uniformed letter carriers interact with hundreds of thousands of seniors on a day to day basis," said Robert Daruk, USPS New York District Manager and Postmaster. "Letter carriers do more than deliver the mail. They are the eyes and ears of the community and now they will be better prepared to identify critical signs of trouble and report them to the proper authorities."

The Carrier Alert Program builds on the City's efforts to address the needs of socially isolated seniors and people with disabilities. Last year, the Department partnered with the Hebrew Home for the Aging and building service workers who are members of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, to assist in the identification of seniors residing in their buildings who are socially isolated and in need of social services. The Department continues to train members of Local 32BJ to recognize the signs and symptoms of isolation. The Department for the Aging also continues a collaboration between the New York City Housing Authority and the New York Police Department to educate tenants and officers on the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and social isolation.

The Carrier Alert Program and other initiatives demonstrate the City's commitment to helping older New Yorkers to live a healthy and engaged lifestyle.

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