HUDSON — The safety program RUOK?, introduced last spring to keep tabs on residents by phone, is doing better than OK.

RUOK? is a free service that establishes a prearranged time for participants to receive a regular phone call inquiring about their welfare. During the call, the participant will be asked, "Are you OK?" If they answer "yes," they may hang up and continue with their day. The program was initiated by EMS Outreach of Hudson.

If a concern is expressed, the volunteer caller will determine the nature of the concern and if some sort of response is necessary. Unanswered calls are made again. If there is still no response, the volunteer caller may request a police officer be dispatched to the location for a safety check.

When the program began last April, two Hudson residents were participating in the program. Since then, the number of seniors using the services has increased to 10. 

"We’re real happy about how things are going," said Heidi Schweighofer, a member of the EMS Outreach board. But as the number of seniors has increased, so has the need for callers, she said. The ratio of seniors to callers is 2-1 right now, with five volunteers calling 10 participants.

"We’re starting to double up," Schweighofer said. She said anyone interested in being an RUOK? volunteer may contact Cindy Murphy at Hudson EMS, 330-342-1852, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

RUOK? volunteer Louise McCorkle calls Lorraine every Thursday morning. Although the two women have not yet met face to face, they have developed a kind-of friendship over the past several months.

"We talk about her family and her health," McCorkle said. "She still drives and she’s very alert. She’s very pleasant and we’ve developed a nice relationship." She said Lorraine is in her 70s. 

"This is a worthwhile program and I hope we get more people involved," McCorkle said, adding she learned about RUOK? through Rotary. "I’m a retired nurse, retiring a year ago, and seniors were my practice. I used to take care of seniors in their home. When I first heard about it, I could identify with it."

Volunteer Joe Selden, who made the first call to the program’s first participant, continues to call the same man and and says the program has been "going well." Selden said the past few months have been a learning experience for him and the other RUOK? volunteers.

Selden said he recently filled in for a couple other callers who were on vacation and spoke to residents he hadn’t before. Selden said one man lived alone and appreciated talking to someone on the phone once a week, even though he was not in poor physical health. 

"Others have concerns about their health, and that’s part of it," he said. "Everybody is going to be different and have different needs."

Like any new program, getting this one going has been a learning process, Selden said. One of the challenges organizers didn’t anticipate was when there is an emergency and a resident in the program is taken to the hospital. Follow-up is difficult when they are transported by an agency other than Hudson EMS. Squads that respond through mutual aid can’t let RUOK? volunteers know where their patient was hospitalized.

"If our squads are busy and they call a neighboring community, we may not get the information and we don’t know they come back from the hospital," Selden said.

Schweighofer stressed the welfare checks are made from the city’s EMS Department’s telephones, which are not monitored for incoming calls. Anyone who needs help and is able to call should still dial 911 or call non-emergency numbers of Hudson police, 330-342-1800; fire, 330-342-1860; EMS, 330-342-1842; or City Hall, 330-650-1799.

Reporter Steve Wiandt can be reached at 330-541-9420, or @SteveWiandt_RPC.