The crucial task of the Dare County Special Needs Medical Registry

By on September 3, 2023

September is the midway point for hurricane season, leaving three months left for big storms to potentially hit Dare County. Along with doing the usual pre-storm prep, county residents with personal care and medical care needs can prepare in advance by becoming part of the Special Medical Needs Registry that is administered by the Dare County Division of Social Services (DSS).

The Registry is comprised of people with physical or mental impairments who make a personal plan in the event of an emergency, such as a need for sheltering or evacuation. The registry pamphlet clearly outlines four steps to prepare for an emergency including “Maintaining Your Plan.”

“Any person in Dare County can sign up for the registry,” says Beth Bradley, Adult Services Supervisor for DSS. Currently, there are 85 people signed up for the registry.

The first step is to visit their website and read/apply online or download an application and brochure from the department’s website at, or you can call the county office for information. The county recently released a new video that highlights the registry that can be accessed through the website

The applicant can have a family member or representative fill out the form if they are not able. “We have a lot of older adults who may live down here by themselves, but the family is not here,” says Chuck Lycett, Dare County Director of Social Services. “Their family members want to sign them up to make sure that they’re checked on and that we’re aware of them, and they do that.”

The registration form asks for information regarding special needs such as if you require oxygen, dialysis, a respirator or help to eat. Applicants check off their challenges, such as being visually impaired or having mental illness, heart conditions or high-risk pregnancy.

The county starts calling people in the registry in May—prior to the start of hurricane season, to make sure their registration information is up to date. Calling also occurs before a storm.

“The list is divided up among the social workers and Adult Services and the social workers will reach out and say, you know, are you aware of this storm, do you have your medication, do you have food,” says Bradley. “Typically, people are aware of it. They’re ready to go.”

If they need help picking up a prescription or getting extra food, that help is supplied. After discerning that needs are met and sheltering and evacuation plans are clear, DSS will follow up after the storm to make sure they are answering their phones and that they are OK.

Setting up a plan includes deciding if you will be staying with family or others, staying at home, or evacuating to a shelter.

As Dare County has no evacuation shelters, DSS will help locate shelters that can take in and provide needed aid to those leaving the county. “Our Dare County Emergency Management works with the state emergency management to find out where those shelters are, and individuals are screened depending on whether they can go to a regular shelter,” says Lycett, “Or if they have special medical needs, the state may open up a medical shelter, and we can apply for them to go to that medical shelter.”

It helps that the Special Needs Medical Registry is electronically connected to the GIS system “so that information can be shared with the fire department, so they don’t have to look for the address,” says Lycett. “It can pinpoint on a map where this house is and know…there’s no trees down or there’s a tree down on that road, that powerline might be down, we need to go and check on this client.”

It’s not just hurricanes that sets the registry in motion. A nor’easter could knock out power as could a cut power line or a truck cracking into a telephone pole. When a storm comes, the registry list is given to emergency management in each town.

After-the-storm check-ins are important. “It’s a really good source for following up with medically needy people after a storm,” says Bradley of the registry. “And so in certain areas, I mean, I remember years ago when we were down south after a storm, we would go from house to house of people on our special needs registry and make sure that they were okay and to see is there was anything else that was needed at the time.”

Prior to this summer, state law held the state would help support the counties in terms of the registry system. That law changed this summer, and it’s now up to the counties to have their own system, according to Lycett. “So, while ours has been around for a long time, I believe not all counties have one,” he says.

And every county’s registry is different. So, says Lycett, it’s important if you are relocating to Dare County that you familiarize yourself with the offered services.

Bradley calls the registry a “well-oiled machine…Most of the staff that we have has done this for many years.”

Contact Dare County Department of Health & Human Services, Social Services Division at 252-475-5500,, P O Box 669, Manteo, NC 27954.

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