Five St. Louis County Library Branches To Get In-House Social Workers
Starting this fall, users of five St. Louis County library branches will be able to receive help from a licensed local social worker.
The St. Louis County Children’s Service Fund covers most of the $ 715,000 cost of the Community Resource Initiative. The social workers employed by an organization already using the fund will help connect library users with services such as mental health care, professional training and substance use disorder treatment.
Although the program is aimed at those under the age of 19, no one will be turned away, said Emily Koenig, director of the fund.
“We know the library sees people coming in, vulnerable people who may not be connected to a broader system like a school system,” she said. “And so it really only made sense for us to use this opportunity for a partnership.”
The Children’s Service Fund receives its income from ¼ cent sales tax and a board of directors approves the expenses. Since the fund can only serve people under the age of 19, the library pays 40% of the costs.
Library branches have long been viewed as the hubs of the community, said Kristen Sorth, executive director of the County Library Systems. During the pandemic, people were able to pick up groceries, diapers and WiFi hotspots even though the buildings themselves were closed.
“It’s just a place that I think people are very comfortable with,” Sorth said of the decision to have social workers in the buildings. “It just seems like a logical place. We have parking, we are open for a long time. It’s just a place people come when they don’t know where else to go. There is no stigma attached to being there. ”
In addition to helping the patrons, the social workers will also train the staff at the five branch offices to help those who may be in crisis. Sorth calls this component “very, very important”.
“We want to equip our people with all kinds of resources to deal with situations that arise,” she said.
The pilot program will last two years, but both fund and library managers hope to find ways to make it permanent and expand to other branches.
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