Peter Evers: ‘Celebrate this army of humankind’

For the Monitor – Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Every now and again it is useful to take a moment to ponder how things get done in the Granite State. Who are the people who toil away without any fanfare to provide much-needed care and services to those in need? I am talking about the people working every day in the human services world through numerous agencies across New Hampshire whose sole mission is to serve people who are vulnerable, disabled and in desperate need.

Conventional wisdom tells us that New Hampshire is a great place to live, and it is for most people. Forty-seven percent of people are college educated, and we are eighth in the nation in terms of median household income.

There is a very different story behind those numbers. Nearly one in five single parent families are at or below the poverty level. Twenty percent of all jobs are low wage and 17 percent of working families are at 200 percent of the poverty line.

These are telling numbers in the argument that not everyone is represented by the rosy statistics of which our state is so proud. So many of the people represented by these numbers struggle every day. Some are working poor earning the minimum wage in New Hampshire of $7.25 an hour. Many are disabled due to mental illness and addiction, and many of their children struggle with the effects of adverse childhood experiences.

The human services workforce are those people who provide the safety net for our most vulnerable people, our children, our parents and other loved ones. On any given day they are helping to find housing, they are providing therapy, working with children keeping them in school, searching for nursing homes for people who can no longer age in place in their own homes, and they are providing home-based care so people can remain where they have lived all their lives.

These dedicated human service workers are everywhere – in prisons, group homes, riding along with police officers, in workplaces supporting people in employment. In fact, they are wherever they are needed to help those in need meet their full potential.

It could be said, and I believe it to be true, that this work is the most important work that rarely gets any recognition. There are no Oscars for what our dedicated people do, but what it means to someone with a serious mental illness who is working at a fair wage because a case manager helps them get to work and stay in work is immeasurable. And not just to that person, but to our tax base and the health of our economy.

Let us all recognize and celebrate this army of humankind who make a difference every day, who give of themselves every day and who love being the difference that they want to see in the world.

(Peter Evers is the CEO of Riverbend Community Mental Health Center in Concord.)