OLEAN — Two Cattaraugus County Social Services Adult Protective Services employees have received state recognition for going above and beyond in helping some of the most vulnerable residents in the county.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services recognized caseworkers Carmen Rhim and Marty Jacobson for their services.
On Thursday, Cattaraugus County Legislature Majority Leader Donna Vickman presented the state awards to Rhim and Jacobson for “going the extra mile and partnering together.” Vickman is also chairman of the County Legislature’s Human Services Committee.
Both are 13-year employees of the Department of Social Services. Jacobson has served seven years in the Adult Protective Services Unit, while Rhim has worked for two years in Adult Protective Services.
Linda Glenn, Adult Protective Services supervisor, nominated both Rhim and Jacobson for the recognition by the state Office of Child and Family Services.
A case Glenn cited as an example of Rhim going above and beyond the call of duty resulted helping a Franklinville man living in a car find an apartment — after 18 months of visiting him regularly. “She kept going back and trying to build that trust.”
The man had lived in the car, which was inoperable, for almost two years. A nearby camper was uninhabitable.
Rhim said she and Jacobson helped the man find an apartment and helped him move in. Rhim said she still checks in with him to make sure he’s all right.
“Now the client enjoys sleeping in a bed, having furniture, cooking food and watching TV,” Glenn said.
Many adults who don’t have family in the area find themselves in dangerous situations — particularly when it comes to housing.
“That case was a big one,” Rhim said. Jacobson went with her to meet the man for the first time. “He was really nice,” but wasn’t looking for any help. Undeterred, Rhim went back again and again to visit the man, all the time building trust.
It was a case of persistence and perseverance, said Social Services Commissioner Anthony Turano. “We offer them services to save their lives,” he said. “People have to want to change. When they are ready, we’re there.”
Glenn said, “It was a glorious day when Carmen announced that this gentleman had agreed to an apartment.”
Jacobson goes that extra mile as well, his supervisor said. In one instance, he started up a client’s snowmobile and cleared her driveway of deep snow last winter.
Glenn said Rhim and Jacobson work well together when the situation calls for teamwork among the caseworkers.
There are currently four caseworkers in Adult Protective Services, each carrying an average of 70 cases. Glenn said there are plans to add more caseworkers to the unit due to an increase in the number of reports of adults who need help.
“We do have caring people,” Vickman said after presenting the recognition certificates. “I think everyone’s protected. You both make me proud.”
Jacobson said it’s rewarding when he meets someone for the first time who will accept help from him. “So many people don’t want help” Making a breakthrough is especially fulfilling.
Jacobson was also recognized for assisting with a co-worker’s guardian case while she was on medical leave to make sure the protected client’s property was made safe.
The caseworkers visit also guardian homes to make sure adults under their supervision are well cared for, Glenn said.
They also take referrals from friends, family or others who are aware of adults who need some help.
Jacobson and Rhim frequently team up in completing home visits for assessments and preventive cases.