OCEAN COUNTY, NJ — The Ocean County Board of Commissioners announced plans for what they call a MASH unit last fall. The novel concept is now on its way to becoming a reality.
County officials awarded a bid for the furnishing and delivery for a custom van at their most recent Board of Commissioners meeting. The specifications for the vehicle are all set to become what may be New Jersey’s first Mobile Assistance for Seniors at Home — or the Ocean County MASH unit.
Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari admitted it’s no coincidence that the acronym appears to be a spinoff of the once popular TV series. The show centered on a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital and was set during the Korean War.
Historians believe that over 2 million Korean War vets are still alive. While Ocean County’s MASH unit plans to help them as well, the model extends further.
“Instead of treating wounded soldiers, the 21st century Ocean County MASH program will be in the frontlines helping our senior citizens,” said Vicari.
Ocean County serves as home to over 200,000 senior citizens. The onset of COVID-19 accentuated the number of elderly people who are homebound and isolated.
Many seniors found themselves overwhelmed when it came to searching for COVID-19 vaccines. Not only did they not have Wi-Fi access, but they also lacked computers and skills to access the system.
Vicari likened the county’s planned MASH unit to ice cream trucks that make the rounds during summer months. While seniors can once again find in-person help at the County Connection at the Ocean County Mall, the MASH van brings assistance closer to home.
“We plan to go and give our senior citizens services that they need,” Vicari shared. “Health services, food services, help with filling out applications, and showing seniors things like how they can save money with homestead rebates and senior tax freezes.”
The MASH unit will be staffed by Ocean County Senior Services employees and will also feature computers and access to the internet. Plans include providing services throughout the entire county.
At 915.40 square miles, Ocean County stands out geographically as New Jersey’s largest county. Retirees moving from all parts of the tri-state area are part of the reason Ocean County also has more senior citizens than anywhere else in the state.
“When senior communities open up and allow indoor activities, we also plan to hold events inside their clubhouses with all of the necessary precautions,” said Vicari.
Meanwhile, Vicari reminded seniors that the County Connection at the mall is open again. And the Office of Senior Services is just a phone call away at 732 929-2091.
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