Town Manager Paul Bockelman announced, in a memo dated March 3, the appointment of Earl Miller as the first director of the town’s Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service Program (CRESS). The appointment must be approved by the town council and a vote is anticipated at their meeting on Monday, March 7.
Miller is currently the Director of Recovery for the Western Massachusetts division of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. As director, he oversees employment services for the region and chairs the Trauma Informed Approaches Task Force. He also led the department’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives and participates in numerous state-wide initiatives on policy, procedure, and program development. Previously, Miller worked at the Center for Human Development in Springfield as Coordinator of Peer Roles, part of a Community-Based Flexible Supports contract. He supervised a peer team that developed and implemented policies and best practices and offered over 30 trainings on topics such as Culturally Appropriate Services and Hiring, Trauma and Resilience, and LGBT Supports. He also worked in a leadership capacity as the Hampden County Community Coordinator for the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community. There he was instrumental in raising awareness about the impact of homelessness on people’s emotional health and well-being, and integrating peer support into the world of housing and tenancy preservation. He operated drop-in centers in Holyoke and Springfield that mainly served those experiencing homelessness. He founded and developed a program called “Finding Shelter Through Peer Support,” a new model of wrap-around and outreach services delivered by formerly unhoused people that supported over 100 formerly unhoused individuals transition to permanent, affordable housing.
In his appointment memo, Bockelman noted: “Miller knows our regional community and has lived through many experiences. He knows first-hand what it takes to help and be helped. Mr. Miller has written about racism and the movement to undo psychiatric oppression. Mr. Miller has broad community involvement and has been recognized for his work both by being asked to speak at symposiums and participate and lead various teams. Mr. Miller has serious interest in working for the town and helping to develop our new department. He said he has watched every meeting of the Community Safety Working Group so he understood more fully the needs of the community.”
CRESS will be a new department in Town Hall. The town is seeking alternative options for providing services to respond to issues of homelessness, mental health, and other non-criminal calls through a new community responder program. Community Responders for Equity, Safety, and Service (CRESS) is a team of alternative safety providers that respond to nonviolent community calls with an emphasis on approaching community members through an anti-racist and behavioral health lens either in-person or by telephone. Community Responders will respond to situations that don’t involve violence or serious criminal activity such as minor disputes and disturbances, loitering, mental health issues, homelessness, substance abuse, trespass, truancy, wellness checks, youth, and schools.