At the April 5 Council meeting, members of the Rochester City Council unanimously voted to approve the Community Outreach Facilitator position that was first proposed in October 2021.
The Community Outreach Facilitator will conduct public outreach within the community, at designated locations each week, to interact with and navigate receptive residents experiencing mental health difficulties, including substance use disorders toward available and appropriate provider services. The individual will collaborate with community and regional service providers for the purpose of building working collaborative relationships.
Initially, the position will be supported by federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds and operate under the Municipal Welfare Department, while working closely with the Police Department.
Deputy Manager and Finance Director, Katie Ambrose, explained that the position would be developed an as evidence-based program, in accordance with Treasury requirements. Examples of evidence would be the use of “existing data, studies, and best practices.” The position will be posted as grant-funded through FY26.
“A key component of this program, from the start, would be data collection and analysis,” said Ambrose. “So when the grant has reached its end, City Council can make a data-driven decision on whether or not to continue funding in the [City] budget.”
According to Municipal Welfare Director Todd Marsh, who also serves as president of the New Hampshire Local Welfare Administrator’s Association, Rochester is the first in the State of New Hampshire to embed an outreach position, focusing on mental health, including substance misuse, within a municipal welfare department. “The connection to the welfare department will provide access to our internal resources, information, and connections with other agencies and organizations,” said Marsh.
Marsh believes the position will broaden his department’s knowledge and in turn benefit the city government as a whole.
“Beyond our state-mandated legal obligations, local municipal welfare is a valuable social service perspective within town and city halls. This position will provide increased understanding, beyond what we observe within our welfare office and result in greater shared insight when at the table of discussions with city management, department directors, and other city leaders.”
Marsh cites a community-up approach as the influence for this position.
“This initiative by Rochester leaders is testament to increased greater community awareness efforts of various commissions, alliances, and individual residents that have shifted the tide of focus toward mental health, including substance misuse,” said Marsh. “We can take collective community pride with this effort.”
Marsh describes the position as an innovative way for his department to continue taking a more holistic case management approach to reduce recidivism for assistance, including for those experiencing homelessness, which is more cost-effective for taxpayers. Marsh states that it’s his hope that reduced recidivism will also apply to the Police Department and other emergency services.
“Continuous improvement with current city government practices is ongoing and has value. However, we owe it to the people we seek to help, and to the citizens that pay for the help, to not just try harder with the same, but to try more effectively with different,” said Marsh. “I look forward to leading this innovative position toward maximum success.”
According to officials, the City will be seeking qualified candidates to begin after the start of the next fiscal year.