Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Task forces offer help to hoarders

by Nathan Carrick
Dr. Elspeth Bell has traversed canyons created by shoulder-high piles of everything — from newspapers and magazines to bags of clothing and garbage.

These narrow walkways — "goat paths" to Bell — aren't found in alleyways or warehouses, but in the homes of compulsive hoarders Bell tries to help. And the canyons can be found right here in Gaithersburg.

Hoarders accumulate vast quantities of possessions, but are unable to throw any of it away, experts say. Local officials say increased news media attention nationwide has brought to light more cases of hoarding in Montgomery County.

Two task forces, one in Gaithersburg and the other in the county's Department of Health and Human Services, have formed in the past year to help hoarders, as well as their families and friends.

Bell is a member of both task forces.

The county task force, formed about four months ago, also includes Bonnie Klem, supervisor of Adult Protective Services for the county's HHS; Uma S. Ahluwaliacode, director of HHS; and representatives from code enforcement and police..." More