One of the newer members of the team of social workers in Bedford’s Health and Human Services Department is connecting with school counselors and Bedford families after just a few months on the job.
Mackenzie Comeau joined the staff in August and reports, “Everyone that I’ve talked to so far has been so welcoming and great.”
“I think it’s so beneficial to connect to people,” she commented. “Most of my work is in person. I really try to meet families where they are, home visits or schools, wherever they need.”
Comeau is the social worker attached to Youth and Family Services, focusing on residents under age 18 and their families. Her position was created several months ago as part of the restructuring of the umbrella agency, the Department of Health and Human Services.
“When we reorganized, we were able to look at the needs of the community, and we determined that social workers were the way to go,” said Health and Human Services Director Heidi Porter. “We wanted the position to be one that would be outreach. We needed forward-facing folks to connect with residents where they are.”
“We wanted these positions accessible to the town,” Porter said. “Some folks might be hesitant to admit needs to school administrators or counselors for whatever reason.” Comeau is available during normal business hours (781-981-4331, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., until 7 p.m. Mondays, 1 p.m. Fridays).
She joins social workers Danika Castle, who serves residents older than 59, and Christopher Bang, with an age range of 18-59.
Comeau, 24, grew up in Lynnfield and earned her undergraduate degree at Plymouth, NH, State College. As a college student, she concentrated in the social sciences and worked as a youth counselor in a residential facility for boys ages 11-18.
She received her master’s degree at Salem State University, where “they have an amazing MSW program.” She also qualified for a school adjustment counselor license and her social worker license.
“That program really prepared me for the work I do with youth and families,” she said, outlining internships. One was with a state Department of Children and Families foster care center, where she facilitated grandparent support groups, and another at a high school, where she worked with students and their families in case management.
“We have built a really strong relationship with the schools,” Porter said. “Now we’re really looking to see how we could bring the school and town services together. There are families receiving services through the schools; we could also connect with them outside. But all families have access to our services.”
Comeau said she is connecting families to clinicians from Eliot Community Human Services, as well as local services such as the food bank.
She has been working with her colleague Carla Olson, Healthy Bedford coordinator, to assemble a group of high-school-age volunteers for service opportunities such as the town food bank. “We have a lot of great student volunteers already,” she said.
Comeau also has been concentrating on renewing the Youth and Family Services’ Safe Homes program. The department defines Safe Homes as “a support network for Bedford parents who are concerned about alcohol and drug use at pre-teen and teen parties and gatherings. Families who join promise to provide a safe and supervised home for teen parties.”
She acknowledged that as schools continue recovering from the months of limited on-site classes, and several precautions continue. “it’s hard to start brand new programs when you’re just trying to make sure the baseline is being maintained. When everyone gets a little more settled, we will be able to do more.”
Porter noted that prior to the pandemic, “we had some great plans in place with the counseling Department to do some walk-and-talk groups after school.”
Comeau said. Youth and Family Services is represented on the Bedford Community Partnership, “so I have been able to reach out to a lot of people. If families ever need anything, feel free to email (email@example.com) or call.”
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763