For Mashpee Human Services Director Gail R. Wilson, the job is important now more than ever.
The department’s goal is to connect Mashpee residents with resources and solutions during times of need to build a strong and integrated community. It acts as an information and referral agency for clinical services to individuals and families, and for advocacy, substance use referral to treatment, and financial needs and programs. If you do not know where to go, this is where you go, Ms. Wilson said.
As the only employee in the department, Ms. Wilson said her phone has stayed busy throughout the pandemic, dealing mainly with calls for mental health concerns and fuel assistance.
Ms. Wilson, a licensed mental health counselor, said many of the calls she has received over the past year about mental health were questions about where to go to seek help for anxiety and COVID-19-caused mental health issues. After people call human services, Ms. Wilson is able to make referrals and make attempts to get them the help they need as quickly as possible.
Even though Ms. Wilson is the only employee in the department, she does not do the job alone, as there are several volunteer committees within the department that she leads. One in particular, the Mashpee Substance Use Task Force, has changed drastically due to COVID-19.
The task force was created in August 2016 to help prevent and reduce substance abuse in the area. By June 2017 it had created Substance Use Drop-In Night, a staple of the department.
Every first Tuesday night of the month, anyone in the area could visit the Community Health Center of Cape Cod in Mashpee free of charge and connect with organizations for the help they—or a family member/friend—needed. Here, individuals could be put into contact with treatment options, counseling and educational resources for those struggling.
Ms. Wilson said having the event at the health center destigmatized the need for help, making it easier for individuals to go and get what they needed. Anywhere from 15 to 20 people would show up on a given night to see what approximately 20 organizations had to offer.
When the pandemic came to Cape Cod last March, having these in-person events were no longer possible.
Ms. Wilson said “it was difficult to figure out” at first, but she is encouraged that “people are still finding creative ways to connect.” A great value in the drop-in nights was the ability to connect in person and not have to wait on the phone or be put on hold.
For now, the in-person connection is lost, but the effort is not. Ms. Wilson thanked the task force for its “incredible dedication” in continuing to do the job during difficult times.
For those in need of assistance to find the resources they need, Ms. Wilson can be contacted at 508-539-1411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.