During her maiden speech before the City Council at its Sept. 13 meeting at City Hall, District 8 Councilor Sharon Durkan put her first order on the floor for a hearing to review the mental health and wellness resources available to city employees during the pandemic and beyond.
“My own family’s experience with mental health and substance abuse drives me to do this important work to push for accessible, affordable stigma free mental health care, because I know behind every statistic is a person, a family and a community,” said Councilor Durkan.
Her hearing order states that, “The loss of life and mandated social distancing within the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic increased global rates of depression and anxiety by 25 percent according to the World Health Organization,” and that the “impacts of this collective experience and ensuing mental health crisis directly impacts City of Boston employees.”
Councilor Durkan said of the pandemic: “It dramatically altered how we move in society, experience community and interact with others. From the beginning of the pandemic till now, the City’s Employee Assistance Program has had to more than double its budget from over $200,000 in 2021, to over $650,000 in this year’s budget. We need to invest in our workers’ well-being, and make sure we keep moving in the right direction.”
The City of Boston’s Human Resource Department’s Employee Assistance Program addresses the well-being of its workforce by promoting, establishing, and increasing quality of life, good health, and personal experiences for City employees.
“We have the moral obligation to make sure our public employees have the best resources possible, and have their mental health care needs addressed without fear or stigma. […] From our 911 dispatchers, who respond to over half million calls per year, to parking enforcement and building inspectors, who can be put in tough and stressful situations as part of the job, we know so much of our workforce have jobs and tasks that are psychologically intense by their very nature we have to treat. […] We ask people to do extremely challenging things, so we need to be there for them,” said Councilor Durkan.
The hearing order was assigned to the Committee on Boston’s COVID-19 Recovery.