Hi, my name is Mohamed Farah. I am 34 years old, and I came to the United States from Somalia as a refugee in 1995. My parents worked very hard at a factory in Rochester so my siblings and I could be the first generation to go to school in my family. I am the middle of nine children, and we all took the opportunity to go to school and pursue different career paths.

I graduated from Mayo High School, attended Rochester Community & Technical College. I later graduated from Winona State University with a degree in Public Health, and my experience helping diverse populations in the community allowed me to have the ability to serve valuable and necessary services.

For six years, I provided case management services at Zumbro Valley Health Center as a mental health practitioner and passionately served those who were most in need. Currently, I am a community outreach specialist for Olmsted County.

In my role, I respond to mental health and substance use crisis calls with Rochester Police Department and the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office. After the call for service, I follow up and assist any way possible, such as connecting individuals with housing, treatments, or other services/resources.

This co-responder model, where a community outreach specialist responds to certain calls with law enforcement, is receiving positive feedback. We are glad to have the officers/deputies at the scenes to assist us and the clients and for everyone’s safety. It is great working together, with law enforcement and so many other departments in the community, towards the same common goal. When everyone does their part, the services are more streamlined, and individuals will have a smoother experience/process.

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The most rewarding part of this job is knowing that you’ve helped someone get services or resources so they can get back on their feet. On the other hand, the challenging part of this job is trying to get someone help when they are not willing to accept it. We try to level with them and keep trying until they want the help. It’s never too late, and we don’t give up. We have a wonderful team that is excited to help others and make a difference.

The need for social justice reforms, equality, and serving those who don’t have access to services motivates me every day to do the work I do. I’m also driven to improving the lives of those in the community that need us the most and setting an example for others. Sometimes it’s just us (crisis responders) that they have, and they just want to be heard – to have someone there, willing to listen, and offer them help/resources to overcome the crisis they are in.

I am a young, Somali Black American male who grew up in Rochester, Minnesota, and my 25-year experience in this city has encouraged me to give back and promote a safe and healthy community for all. I’m honored to be part of Olmsted County that understands and is willing to make a difference in those we serve.

With team effort, I hope we can continue to encourage diversity, equity and integration of community services, create effective programs and connect with law enforcement to identify the mental health crisis and substance issue, so together we can come up with ways to help those in our community.