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City Staff Provide Critical Support to Cambridge's Most Vulnerable Populations

Monday, September 12, 2022

The City’s commitment to providing a comprehensive array of programs, resources, and services that are accessible to all in the Cambridge community, especially our most vulnerable populations, has led to the addition of social workers in several departments.
Library Social Worker Meets with Residents at their Local Branch or by Phone

Hundreds of community members walk through the doors of the Cambridge Public Library (CPL) and Branch locations daily to discover, create, and utilize the Library’s many resources. One of the Library’s newer resources – the addition of a social worker in March 2021 – reflects the City’s commitment to equity, access, and inclusion. It is also part of a greater effort to support community members by strategically placing resources where they tend to congregate.

Marie Mathieu, a licensed clinical social worker based at Central Square Branch Library, meets with community members at Branch locations and speaks in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. Over the past year, she has helped over 300 clients navigate the complex web of systems to register for benefits and supports, systems that are often an insurmountable barrier to life saving resources for the people who need them the most. Marie has also helped clients access critical food and mental health resources, and apply for housing and jobs. Four social work interns supplement the Library’s social services and were instrumental in piloting a Care Call initiative, which allows community members to sign up for weekly check-in calls. Additionally, Marie has trained CPL staff on how to support the vulnerable community, expanding the library’s ability to effectively help those in need.

Cambridge Police Social Workers Support Officers in their Work with Vulnerable Residents

The Cambridge Police Department’s (CPD) Clinical Support Unit (CSU) has two licensed clinical social workers – Elana Klein and Sabrina Voegelin – who, along with Dr. James Barrett, a psychologist and CSU Director – provide critical support for officers, primarily those working in the Family and Social Justice Section, as they work directly with residents and their families. CSU staff provide formal training, help officers understand how certain health conditions can affect a person’s behavior, and support community prevention programs.

The CSU also reaches out directly to residents, particularly members of vulnerable populations who interact with officers, or are referred to the department. The main goal of the CSU is to work with those who are at-risk for involvement in the criminal justice system and to divert and deflect them away from jail and into needed supports and services. This past year, CSU staff worked on over 900 unique cases.

Emergency Communications Social Worker Helps Dispatchers with Certain 911 Calls

The City’s Emergency Communications Department is committed to providing timely assistance to those most in need and will be placing a Licensed Social Worker in the Emergency Call Center to assist dispatchers in handling calls to 911 and the non-emergency line, that have a mental health component or emergency.

Connecting Cambridge Seniors to Social Services

The Cambridge Council on Aging (COA)’s Client Services team takes a case management approach to helping any Cambridge resident age 60 and older with accessing the resources they need. COA offers a variety of social-based services, and while it does not provide direct clinical or medical services, COA staff can refer seniors to local agencies that do.

When meeting with seniors, COA staff consider each personal situation carefully to determine whether a client could benefit from housing resources, food access, mental health or cognitive support, financial management, or medical attention. If staff determine that a senior needs resources related to their health or safety, they coordinate with community partners, including Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services, licensed social workers in Cambridge Housing Authority’s Senior Housing, Cambridge Police Department, or the state’s Protective Services.

“Our goal is for seniors to be able to maintain a level of independence and quality of life,” says Susan Pacheco, Executive Director of COA. “We also focus on providing ongoing social support to seniors. When people are isolated, their physical and mental health quickly declines, so connection is critical to wellbeing.”

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