Olmsted County adds social worker outreach program in wake of library pilot
County social workers will seek to connect with residents in various community locations on weekly basis.
ROCHESTER — A Rochester Public Library social worker pilot program is winding down, but an Olmsted County effort is seeking to fill the void.
Olmsted County, in partnership with Family Service Rochester, plans to add access to a team of social workers at various community locations, including the library, beginning Tuesday.
The team from the county’s Guiding Partners to Solutions program seeks to connect residents with resources or services they may need by reducing barriers and connecting individuals and families with housing, cash, food and insurance assistance, and provides help in applying for these benefits.
Previously, program’s services were only accessible by phone at 507-328-6325 and at Olmsted County’s 2117 building on Campus Drive SE in Rochester.
“As we continue to test new approaches to integration and service delivery, community members have often asked if our services could be offered in new locations, beyond our traditional service hubs at government buildings,” Olmsted County Program Coordinator Mary Eichten said in a statement announcing the new effort. “By increasing the number of locations where our services can be accessed, we are hoping to reduce barriers such as transportation or stigma.”
The outreach will have social workers posted at a variety of locations on a regular weekly basis:
- 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesdays at Riverside Central Elementary School, 506 Fifth Ave. SE, Rochester to help families of Riverside Central students.
- 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays at the Hylands apartment community, 2800 Charles Court NW, Rochester.
- 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays at The Salvation Army Social Services Center, 115 First Avenue NE, Rochester.
- 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays at Rochester Public Library, 101 Second St. SE, Rochester.
“As a new initiative to increase the accessibility of our services, we are increasing the amount of time that social workers with the GPS program are found in community locations,” Family Service Rochester Program Manager Kristina Ramaker said. “The GPS worker will be supported by a virtual connection to a worker from the county’s Family Support and Assistance team to support navigating family eligibility support systems.”
The new Olmsted County effort follows approximately two months of discussion as the library’s partnership with Family Service Rochester was preparing to end.
The one-year pilot program, which embedded Family Service Rochester social worker Allison Carpenter in the library for 25 to 30 hours a week, was slated to end in December, but was extended through March with funding from the Rochester Public Library Foundation.
Sara Patalita, head of reference at Rochester Public Library, said the community resource has highlighted the need for the ability to access social worker support outside the traditional government offices.
“Allison has used the term for herself as a ‘resource connector,’” Patalita said. “Some people don’t understand what a social worker is, or it might be intimidating or have a stigma.”
As the librarian who helped coordinate the library pilot program, Patalita said the goal has been to help navigate a sometimes confusing system and the library has welcomed the ability to continue working with the county as its program funding ended.
“We are very interested in being part of that and helping people access the social services there is a great need for,” Patalita said, adding that the library’s goal has been to be intentionally welcoming to people who might need to access support.
Eichten said the county’s goal is to monitor the outreach effort to gauge its effectiveness to the program’s ability to reach residents.
“At this point, we don’t have an end date in sight,” she said. “As we learn more and evaluate the success of the program, days, times, locations and services may evolve.”