Bethlehem Press

Thursday, May 28, 2020
PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O’HAREGary Rushman heads Northampton County’s Information and Referral Emergency Services. PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O’HAREGary Rushman heads Northampton County’s Information and Referral Emergency Services.

Northampton County-Emergency service team updates council

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Have you lost housing and do not know where to turn? Are you addicted to heroin? Do you notice that you’re increasingly forgetful? Do you suspect some child you know is being abused or neglected? Is your toddler still not speaking? Is someone you love threatening to kill himself?

This is why Northampton County’s Information and Referral Emergency Services (IRES) exists. Its phone number is 610 559-3270. Its 24 hour emergency services phone number is 610-252-9060.

Gary Rushman, who heads that division, provided an overview at council’s Human Services Committee meeting Nov. 16. He’s from the government and really is there to help. His group of seven full-time and 11 part-time caseworkers connects county residents with services that include Mental Health, Early Intervention and Developmental Programs, Drug and Alcohol, Children and Youth, Area Agency on Aging and other community services.

Rushman’s group decides whether an emergency assessment is needed, which does happen when there are serious allegations of child abuse or neglect or when older adults find themselves in emergency situations.

Northampton County’s emergency services is a 24/7 crisis intervention unit licensed by the state to provide mental health crisis services,process involuntary commitments and to handle all situations that might fall “between the cracks” of other agencies. They could include emergency shelter requests, short term case management or coordination of community resources.

This year, IRES is on track to field 10,546 regular calls and 11,580 emergencies.

The largest number of calls are the result of new laws requiring reports for possible child abuse or neglect. In 2015, there were 5,617 referrals concerning children. This year, there are 5,319 with 6 weeks left until the end of the year.

Since 2009, there have been an average of 475 requests for involuntary commitment, under which a person can be hospitalized for 120 hours at a community hospital if a doctor determines that he is dangerous to himself or others.

According to Rushman, involuntary commitments are “way up this year.” He believes this is the result of a large geriatric population with significant mental health issues.