Task force created in Portage Co. to tackle hoarding

STEVENS POINT, Wis (WSAW) -- The Portage County Health and Human Service Department is trying to tackle the issue of hoarding for senior citizens. According to first responders, it’s a problem they encounter more than you would expect while on the job.

The issue of hoarding is considered a mental health issue that could be very dangerous to anyone, especially those older than 60. In 2017, a Portage County Hoarding Task Force was created to provide resources to those suffering from the issue.

“Hoarding becomes more problematic as people get older,” stated Barbara Saddison who started the task force and works at Health and Human Services. “We have been successful in three homes and there are two homes that we are continually going into.”

The idea to create a task force started when a local EMS crew was delayed getting into a home of a hoarder to rescue someone. The Portage County Sheriff’s Department and the Stevens Point Police Department also serve on the task force and report any suspicion of hoarding.

“Sometimes the person is really willing to start throwing things away,” added Maureen Miller who works for the Aging and Disability Resource Center in Portage County. “There are various reasons why people become a hoarder. It could be from childhood trauma. It could be they didn’t have things when they were growing up and now they have the resources to have them.”

One of the hardest challenges the task force faces is getting someone the accept they need help. Under current Wisconsin law, unless someone’s hoarding is affecting someone else’s environment there is only so much the task force can do.

Since 2017, the task force has received a little more than 20 tips of hoarders, and 15 people have refused help.

People who believe someone may be a hoarder and need help should contact the Portage County Health and Human Services Department at (715) 345-5350.