On July 12, 2018, Joan Mikula, the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) presented an award to Jonathan Bowen-Leopold for his outstanding service as a Peer Worker instrumental to connecting the Department of Mental Health with the Massachusetts Library System. Jonathan, a patron at the Thomas Crane Public Library and DMH Peer Worker, became acquainted with Clayton Cheever, Assistant Director at the library. Jonathan thought there could be some shared programs between the DMH and public libraries, and encouraged Joe Vallely, the Department of Mental Health’s Housing and Homelessness Specialist, to reach out to the library. Following meeting with Joe, Clayton recommended that Joe reach out to the Massachusetts Library System (MLS). Jonathan’s initial connection with Clayton Cheever at the Thomas Crane Public Library resulted in a successful linkage of the Department of Mental Health and the Massachusetts Library System.
To explore best approaches to work together, I coordinated a teleconference with the Department of Mental Health that was attended by staff from the Massachusetts Library System, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), MLS member libraries, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Eliot Community Human Services (DMH’s Homeless Outreach & Engagement Provider). At the teleconference, we learned about a staff training presented for the Thomas Crane Public Library by the Eliot Homeless Outreach Coordinator. We decided to use this training as a model for a state-wide pilot at several libraries in areas served by Eliot’s Homeless Outreach Program.
This spring, Joe Vallely and I coordinated trainings on homelessness and mental illness for staff at the New Bedford Public Library, the Lawrence Public Library, the Somerville Public Library, and the Holyoke Public Library. In addition to equipping library staff with increased understanding and skills to help patrons in need, the workshops connected each library with their local Eliot Homeless Outreach staff for on-call support.
Currently, the Massachusetts Library System and the Department of Mental Health are working to identify additional public libraries for the next round of trainings. I’d like to extend a big thank you on behalf of the Massachusetts Library System to Joe Vallely and Jonathan Bowen-Leopold at the DMH, Clayton Cheever at the Thomas Crane Public Library, the Eliot Community Human Services, Inc., Shelley Quezada at the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, and our members at the New Bedford, Lawrence, Holyoke, and Somerville Public Libraries. This project exemplifies the Massachusetts Library System’s commitment to co-creation as outlined in our strategic plan.
By Michelle Eberle, MLS Consultant