We crafted the job description for our first social worker with the expectation that we would get someone with degree/experience lower than an LSW or ILSW. So we called it "Community Support Specialist" and scoped it so we wouldn't have to find someone to provide clinical oversight. (We are a non-profit and not part of government, so we don't have a logical relationship with a mental health organization.) I hope this helps.
Aimee Fifarek, Executive Director
305 Wick Avenue
Youngstown, OH 44503
Hi Robin,Here is the proposal I wrote for a PT social worker that rotates among 3 area libraries.Helen MalinkaBerlin-Peck Memorial Library234 Kensington Rd.Berlin, CT 06037860-828-7131Project Narrative:
In general, it can be said that a library's mission is to better provide information and resources for our patrons, regardless of circumstance, to lead fuller lives. And one of the best things about the library is that all are welcome there. However, it should be understood that the library's welcoming vibe means that it can also be a gathering place for people facing a number of challenging life circumstances.
In recent years, the number of people living lives complicated by the impact of poverty and trauma that gather at libraries has grown. This trend doesn't have to be a problem in itself, but trauma and poverty can be accompanied by issues that cause difficulties for other patrons and library staff.
The increase in visitors with serious needs means that librarians are being asked to do things that they weren't trained for or weren't expecting. Staff wants to embrace the libraries' open-arms policy, but sometimes even helpful people can feel overwhelmed. Medical emergencies, abandoned children, vandalism – these incidents go beyond a librarian's normal day-to-day work.
Also, there are individuals and families facing homelessness. To them, the library is a safe place. We have friendly helpful staff, air-conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, and rest room facilities. Librarians are not looking to ban anyone from the library but find a way to help them and get them the assistance they need.
While the circumstances in Berlin, New Britain and Plainville aren't as dire as in large cities that have hired full time library social workers to their staffs, our three libraries have noticed an uptick in challenging situations. A part time social worker to rotate among the libraries would serve a two-fold purpose. He/she would have the expertise needed to educate staff – as well as connect community members with resources that could address their larger concerns.
We envision the social worker to come one morning or afternoon a week, for four hours, to Berlin (est. 2017 pop. 20,505); Plainville (est. 2017 pop. 17,705) and to New Britain, (est. 2017 pop. 72,710). Even though New Britain has seen a recent decrease of issues since municipal agencies have stepped up, the size of their city portends future situations. Having set hours in each library would be beneficial to our staffs who would know where to call in an emergency situation. We would expect the individual to build a more personal connection with a patron needing help. Instead of just handing them a referral phone number, the social worker could actually make the call and calm their fears. It's a little extra helping hand that people need and appreciate and that library staffs don't have time to do. While this sounds like something that could be done in a municipality's social services office, we feel that those offices, though staffed by helpful and sometimes overwhelmed town employees, can be more intimidating than the safer environment of the library.
Our hope is that the social worker will be able to assist individuals who are homeless and those with mental health issues. According to the Connecticut Coordinated Access Network (CT CAN) data, the central region of our state, which includes Berlin, New Britain and Plainville served approximately 820 homeless heads of households between emergency shelters, outreach, and rapid, supportive and/or transitional rehousing. Assessing the number of individuals with mental health issues is a more complicated task, as many do not seek help. However, statistics from the Hospital of Central CT show that they alone treated approximately 7,500 people between the emergency room, outpatient and inpatient settings.
We are very fortunate to partner with the Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) in this project. It was a Manager of Care Coordination and Social Work Services at Midstate Medical Center, Mary Beth Rolan, who saw an article in the New Britain Herald regarding the possibility of our applying for a social worker grant. She, in turn, passed the article to Jessica Collins, Regional Manager, Behavioral Health at HOCC. Jessica was very excited because she and her team were looking for more ways to reach people who could use their services. We arranged a meeting and she immediately offered to partner with us in this effort. The three libraries and Ms. Collins agree that there are many library patrons that struggle with mental illness. A social worker can help make connections to other agencies, explaining their programs and the services they offer. He/she can be that middle person and help people understand what it means to have therapy, to walk through the process, help them fill out the referral form and let them know that someone will call them in a day or two. They would help bridge that gap to services. Or perhaps people would just come by and talk to the social worker. They wouldn't have to give a lot of personal information. Social workers already working in libraries have discovered that many of the people they see prefer this nontraditional approach to mental health care. This is especially true for many cultures that have a stigma around these services.
The same is true for homelessness. Librarians may not know how to help someone beyond providing shelter phone numbers. A social worker understands the system and can obtain help for the person right away.
On the other hand, our goal as libraries is to learn how to be more sensitive to the traumatic experiences our patrons may have gone through and to learn how to work with people a little bit better.
Throughout the first year of our program, the Library Directors will meet with the Social Worker to assess the progress of the project. Each of us will want an accounting of how things are going. In Berlin, I would request a written report that would be included in my own monthly report to the Board of Trustees and Town Manager. I would also request that the social worker attend our monthly staff meetings, so that everyone would have the opportunity to pose questions about certain patrons or behaviors in a private setting (our meetings take place before the library opens to the public).
Using funds obtained from the grant would not create any additional expenses for the libraries. In fact, we are only requesting enough money to pay for the social worker's salary. In speaking with our partner, HOCC, two scenarios were evaluated. In the first, a recent unlicensed graduate from the HOCC Social Work program would be hired at $22/hour for twelve hours per week, four hours at each library. In the second plan, an intern would be coming to each library, accompanied by a licensed supervisor. While the supervisor would be paid more than $22 an hour, the intern receives no salary, only graduation credits. HOCC would pick up the difference between our grant amount and the salary. The decision on which scenario we would choose will depend on the types of questions, meetings, and encounters our social worker will experience. Since the money amount stays the same, switching from one plan to another, should not be too disruptive. However, we would ultimately leave that decision up to the HOCC team.
Another benefit of partnering with HOCC is that they will take care of all the payroll taxes and fringe benefits for our worker. That was one drawback that a few of our town managers and HR staff brought up, as they didn't want the town budget to be affected by extra payroll costs.
No other sources of funds are being pursued at this point. Depending on the success of the program, we will determine if we will go forward after one year. Since the state and municipal budgets are so tight, and we have been requested to not request any new personnel, if we do continue this worthwhile project, we will continue to seek grant opportunities.
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