Public Library Hires Health Services Coordinator

Somerville public librarySocial worker Afsaneh Moradi. Photo courtesy of Glenn Ferdman.

The Somerville Public Library and Cambridge Health Alliance have teamed up to hire a social worker who will help library patrons suffering from homelessness, drug use, and more.

“Somerville, being an urban public library, has a fairly significant number of vulnerable patrons—patrons who are dealing with challenges presented by issues such as homelessness, substance abuse, chronic mental health issues. So we were looking for a way to better [serve] these types of individuals, because as much as the library staff tries to the best of our ability to assist, we are not trained healthcare professionals,” says Glenn Ferdman, director of libraries. “This, to us, is just another way that libraries have developed to meet the needs of the residents that they serve.”

Social worker Afsaneh Moradi began at the libraries last week. Moradi, the library, and CHA are still sorting out exactly what services she will offer patrons, but they will include providing referrals and one-on-one counseling. Moradi has an office at the main library branch where she can meet with anyone privately but will be working at all three locations.

“We have relationships with people we know are homeless or struggling with certain issues,” Deputy Director of Libraries Cathy Piantigini says. “We have daily contact with them, and Afsaneh can also have that contact. She is going to be around the people that she can potentially help. And then there’s another aspect to her position, which would be to help educate the library staff and be a support to them, hopefully with some deescalation techniques. She could be great resource.”

CHA is taking care of Moradi’s training, including ensuring she knows how to administer Narcan and perform CPR.

“We are so very excited to partner with the City of Somerville to help support the health and well-being of our community,” Kathy Betts, director of community health improvement for the Cambridge Health Alliance, said in a statement. “Libraries are vibrant resource centers; they are community hubs where essential social services can be readily accessed.”