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Town social worker describes lack of  services for residents: Too many Islanders untreated, too many isolated

There are many people on the Island with untreated mental and emotional needs and many, especially among the elderly, who suffer from loneliness and isolation and can’t afford the required resources to deal with their problems.

That’s the concern of town Social Worker Alexandra Hakim. Ms. Hakim met with the Town Board at Tuesday’s work session to provide an overview of her job and talk about what’s needed to improve a crisis situation for many Islanders.

The meeting comes at an optimum time when the Town Board will soon embark on budgeting for the 2024 year, although tax money may not be the only option for paying for expanded services. The Board wants to examine in detail the best way to fill needs in the town and see if there are specific grants that could cover costs.

Patients are referred to Ms. Hakim by the Police Department, the school and occasionally by friends or family. Police Chief Jim Read told the Board Ms. Hakim is an enormous help to his department. He described her as a great asset to the town and to the community.

Many patients Ms. Hakim sees are elderly and have limited income. Her ability to find psychologists who could treat them is proving difficult, she said. She does do some short-term counseling, but referrals aren’t always easy.

For those who need the services of a mental health professionals, most require “out-of-pocket” fees to be paid by patients directly. Many don’t have insurance or Medicare that might be able to cover some costs, Ms. Hakim said.

She also gets a lot of requests for wellness checks for people who live alone. An affordable retirement community would help to combat isolation, she said.

Others referred to her have addictions, and she has some resources to whom she can refer them. She also is cooperating with some school programs in that area.

Another problem Ms. Hakim said she encounters among poor families is the cost of day care for young children whose parents have to work. The cost of such programs cuts deeply into the incomes parents could earn.

For caregivers of people who are ill, there’s a need to offer time off so they can regain their energy and equilibrium from jobs that are emotionally and physically draining.

Another concern Ms. Hakim has is for space to meet with people. An idea that she might be able to use space at the medical building hasn’t worked out because her hours would often conflict with doctor’s appointments. Often, she has been meeting people at the library.

It now falls to the Town Board to explore what services it can fund to pair residents’ needs with Ms. Hakim’s abilities.