By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
HUDSON – The Hudson Health Department has added a community social worker to its team.
Now, a month into the job, that social worker is noting trends that she’s observing and calling on community members to reach out for services.
“I’m kind of working from the ground up,” she said in a recent interview.
Childhood in Hudson
Alex O’Hare grew up in Hudson before attending Regis College in Weston. She studied nursing there before pivoting to social work.
“I wasn’t really connecting to more of the physical aspect,” she said of her decision to switch career paths. “I always wanted to help people more emotionally.”
O’Hare began working with seniors, also pursuing a graduate degree at Wheelock College.
She came back to Hudson along the way, working, at one point, as an intern at the Hudson Senior Center.
O’Hare had moved on to a gig at the nonprofit Advocates by the time Hudson advertised its own Community Social Worker position.
O’Hare’s old boss, Senior Center Director Janice Long, let her know that job was open.
“Advocates was absolutely amazing,” O’Hare said. “I got the clinical experience and then I was ready to move on to more of a supervisory administration role but still have that clinical piece, which is why this community social worker position was perfect.”
Experts see mental health crisis during COVID-19
These days, O’Hare fills a number of roles.
She connects community members with resources, helping them with applications for aid and introducing them to services like the Hudson Mobile Food Pantry.
She supports individuals applying for affordable housing and can guide families through fuel assistance application processes, among a number of other things.
The need for these kinds of services, O’Hare said, has been clear amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I definitely see an increased need for mental health services,” she said. “There’s been a lot of calls coming in looking for a therapist or med assistant.”
She’s seen homelessness rates increase as wait lists for affordable housing won’t budge.
There’s been an increase of hoarding that, in some cases, has led to eviction or condemnation of living spaces, O’Hare said.
“Usually, for people that do hoard, they do have some underlying mental health symptoms,” she said. “The overall, really current need is mental health services.”
Social worker invites clients, volunteers
With all these trends and issues at play, O’Hare is busy.
“The response has been great so far,” she said.
Still, though, O’Hare and her department are looking to get the word out.
O’Hare provides her long list of social work services. She’s also taken over the job of leading the Hudson Mobile Food Pantry and is planning a “Holiday Blues Support Group” to care for individuals who might struggle with mental health issues brought on or worsened by triggers during the holidays.
She hopes individuals take advantage of these programs.
Likewise, she said she is looking for volunteers, particularly with Portuguese fluency, to help the Mobile Food Pantry in its interactions with a predominantly Portuguese-speaking base of individuals who receive services.
Those interested in volunteering or receiving services can reach out by calling 978-875-1281 or emailing [email protected].
In the meantime, O’Hare remains hard at work in Town Hall.
“Hudson is very close to my heart and it will always be,” she said.