New London is launching a new pilot program that will bring a community navigator to the city’s public library. This is an effort to address the increased need for mental health support.
“The need in our community is staggering and this is a really important step to help meet the need,” said Jeanne Milstein, director of social services for the city.
The city is partnering with the Southeastern Connecticut Child and Family Agency (CFA) for the pilot program. CFA is actively recruiting for the Community Navigator position.
“We would be there just to talk to people, answer questions and help connect them to services and supports in the community,” said Allison Blake, CEO of CFA. “I think formal systems can be intimidating for people, ‘who can I call and what do I ask?’ The very idea of having someone at the library who is knowledgeable about the community and its resources, we believe, will go a long way in connecting people to the supports and services they need.
The pilot program is funded by the city council. To start, the community navigator is expected to work at the library eight hours a week, according to CFA.
Like many social service agencies, the CFA reports an increased need for mental health support since the start of the pandemic.
“Access is probably the biggest challenge,” Blake said. “There are so many people today who are looking for help, but they don’t know how to get it.”
Browser’s goal is to help people connect to the help they need.
“The beauty of a mental health navigator is that a trust will start to develop and that person will likely come back more, share more, and maybe be open to supports and services,” Milstein said.
The library already offers several community programs and is described as a community gathering place.
“I feel like a library is not just a storehouse of books,” said Madhu Gupta, director of the New London Public Library. “We are about resources. We are about services.”
According to Gupta, his team has seen an increasing number of people entering the library with mental health needs and questions.
“We are seeing an overwhelming rate of mental health issues at the library,” Gupta said. “We really don’t know how to handle this, so having a mental health consultant here would be ideal for our location.”
The CFA hopes to hire a navigator within two to three weeks.