Town hires Human Services Coordinator

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 9:15am
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Maryann Seebeck, MSN, RN, has been hired as Block Island’s first Coordinator of Human Services, a new position that was added to the Town’s 2017-2018 budget to fill the role of the state-mandated Director of Public Welfare.

Interim Town Manager Shirlyne Gobern confirmed that Seebeck has started work. On Tuesday, Nov. 28, the Island Free Library Board of Trustees voted to allow the Human Services Coordinator to work out of an office at the library.

A formal announcement of Seebeck’s hiring will be made at the Town Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 4.

In October 2016, members of on-island groups concerned that social services are lacking on the Island, wrote to the Town Council saying that the Town was not complying with its own charter, and not fulfilling its responsibilities under state law, because it has neither appointed a Director of Public Welfare nor provided an office and other supports for that official's work. The Block Island Community Services Coalition later met with the Council and successfully presented its case for an increased commitment to local social services. The new staff position was included in the Town's 2017-2018 budget to meet the state’s requirements.

According to the budget overview prepared for the May 2017 Financial Town Meeting, the coordinator is “to act as both a case worker and coordinator for the Block Island community,” with the first year devoted to outreach “to find and assess needs... [and] to provide or enable access” to available resources, record and document activities, and evaluate the program as it moves forward. The part-time position is budgeted at 10 hours weekly at a rate of $20 to $25 per hour. Another $5,000 was appropriated for non-personnel expenses of the new position.

A biography provided to The Block Island Times says Seebeck has been a Registered Nurse since 1986. She earned her BA in Psychology and her BS in Nursing from Rhode Island College. Much of her nursing career was spent in various roles at Women and Infants Hospital, where she worked in various leadership roles including Nurse Coordinator of the hospital’s High Risk Pregnancy Program, Research Coordinator for many various research projects involving at-risk women and children, and the Clinical Manager of the hospital’s Institutional Review Board. While at Women and Infants, Seebeck also taught classes to teach people to become Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA’s), as well as mentoring many nursing students through the years. She was the Nurse Manger of the Women’s Primary Care Center for five years until earning her Master’s degree in Nursing from URI, which led her to further her interest in the health needs of at-risk and vulnerable populations.

Seebeck chose to do her graduate work on Block Island, where she studied the needs of the Island community and developed a program for Caregiver Support, which has led to collaboration with the Senior Advisory Committee and the Town’s Senior Coordinator to bring educational programs of interest to seniors and caregivers on the Island. Several programs have already been conducted. In October, she met with the Committee to plan two surveys: one to gather information from the community at large and the other to ask caregivers for specifics about their situations and tasks with their patients, and about the caregivers’ own health, training, and experience.

In an email to the Times, Seebeck said: “As Human Services Coordinator, [she] hopes to collaborate with existing Island resource groups, and bring some of her research, nursing and human services experience to assist all Island residents with their needs.” As for her schedule, Seebeck anticipates “being on-island every other Saturday” and will be available by telephone and email during the week. 

Her contact information had not been announced by press time.