Frostbitten Summit man rescued from unheated home

An elderly man in the Schoharie County town of Summit was rescued from his unheated home on Mud Lake Road on Tuesday afternoon, according to several news reports.

The man was suffering from frostbite, hypothermia and dehydration when rescuers found him, the Daily Star reports:

[Schoharie County sheriff Tony Desmond] said he is not disclosing the man's identity, but credited an acquaintance of the medical patient for informing authorities that the man needed help.

"We were lucky to get to him when we did," Desmond told The Daily Star,

He noted the entry to the man's house was blocked by a towering wall of snow. That had to be cleared away by deputies, Richmondville Fire Department volunteers and Summit Rescue first responders for the rescuers to assist the man.

WNYT also has a news report about the rescue of the man, who has not been identified. 

Schoharie County runs several programs that might have helped the man, if he had asked for help. About 250 elderly Schoharie County residents are currently on a list to get hot meals delivered to their homes by the Schoharie County Office of the Aging.  

Nancy Dingee, director of the county Office of the Aging, told the Watershed Post that the man who was rescued in Summit today was not known to her agency. 

"We did not know he was there. He's never contacted our office," Dingee said. "We will assist any senior in need. But this gentleman was not on our radar." 

The high temperature in Summit on Tuesday was around 20 degrees. The average, for February, is around 34. Dingee said that in this cold weather, she is worried about Schoharie County seniors who rely on heating assistance to heat their homes through the winter. 

This winter has been unusually harsh, both in the Catskills region and across the Northeast. For local households that rely on heating assistance -- a federally-funded program called the Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP for short -- the bitterly cold winter comes on top of spending cutbacks that have trimmed HEAP benefits in recent years. 

Paul Brady, director of the Schoharie County Department of Social Services, said that 1262 households in the county received HEAP benefits this season. Most of them have run through both their regular HEAP benefit -- which covers a maximum of $600 -- and a second emergency HEAP benefit, which New Yorkers could apply to starting on Jan. 2.

"We're at the end of February now, and as cold as it's been, people have exhausted their HEAP benefits," Brady said. "People now are starting to come in and ask for emergency assistance."

Emergency assistance, a separate program from HEAP, is an option for people who meet the requirements, Brady said. But even many of those who already use HEAP funding are reluctant to seek further help. For homeowners, receiving emergency assistance means the county will place a lien on their property in the amount of the benefit. 

Brady said that a regular part of the routine for county social services workers is checking on people they know are vulnerable, in an effort to avoid situations like the one in Summit.

"If we had somebody like that, we'd be trying to work with them to deal with whatever their circumstance was," Brady said. "I'd like to believe that if people have a heating-related emergency, they know they can come here and we'll help them out."