By Ed Offley
Bay County Transit, also known as Bayway, has become the newest partner with the Anchorage Children’s Home in providing emergency support to young people in crisis, according to Bayway Program Administrator Lamar Hobbs.
“It’s critical to ensure that every young person has a place to go and someone to help in unsafe situations and environments,” Hobbs told PCB Life. “We are grateful to be able to implement a program that allows our organization to support teens in crisis situations, creating a safety net for youth.”
The safety assistance program, known as Safe Place, has been in existence nationwide for forty years. It constitutes a network of government and nonprofit organizations in each participating community where employees are trained to provide immediate assistance to people under 18 years old in a crisis or emergency.
Safe Place programs utilize schools, fire stations, libraries and other youth-friendly organizations as Safe Place locations, which display the distinctive yellow and black sign. With the inclusion of Bayway, the transit system’s fleet of buses operating countywide will expand the reach of the program along its route system.
Hobbs said that transit employees are trained to react in a variety of situations, ranging from providing transportation to the main Bayway administrative facility on Corn Avenue in Panama City, to stopping and providing on-scene assistance until police or medical responders arrive. The training focuses on identifying the seriousness of the crisis and knowing which specific agency to contact for the victim.
“If necessary, we [transit operators] would stay in the spot until someone came along to relieve them,” Hobbs said.
The Bayway Operations and Maintenance Facility, Administration and Meeting Facility, and all On Demand buses now display a Safe Place sign as an indicator to youth that staff at these locations have received the proper training to help them. Safe Place signs will also list instructions for assistance when facilities are closed, ensuring safety for youth on a 24/7 basis.
Hobbs said that the 60 employees at Bayway received training for the Safe Place program prior to its joining the program in early August.
In addition to Bay County, the Anchorage Children’s Home leads street outreach and recovery efforts, including the Safe Place program, across Gulf, Calhoun, Washington, Jackson, and Holmes counties. Headquartered in Panama City, the non-profit organization was founded in 1983 with the goal of providing care for at-risk and abused and neglected children through screening, case management and counseling, along with basic shelter and non-residential care services.
For information about the Safe Place program, call Anchorage Children’s Home at (850) 763-7102.