February 8, 2023 By Carol Britton Meyer
Hingham resident Justin Cancel recently joined the Health Department as a contract social worker to provide assistance with a variety of need-based referrals for Hingham residents facing mental health issues, including finding psychiatrists, primary care physicians, therapists, and substance use treatment programs and to help them learn coping skills when dealing with depression, anxiety, or addiction.
While Cancel is a licensed social worker, in this position his role is not as a therapist but to assist people “who don’t know where to start in finding the help they need,” he said. “All information is confidential, with no judgment.”
This service is not meant to be a replacement for 911 or the Hingham Police Department’s crisis response clinician. “I provide supplementary services after a situation has occurred and people want to talk about resources or beforehand to help prevent a crisis,” Cancel told the Hingham Anchor. ” I can also refer people to a detox or sober living environment as needed or to a therapist specializing in substance misuse.”
He can also assist clients with grief counseling referrals following the passing of a loved one or following crisis situations and tragedies that affect the entire community.
In addition, Cancel is available to assist residents with applications for SNAP benefits and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program and to provide referrals for housing resources, clothing, support, and crisis guidance and assistance with social security and disability benefits and insurance questions.
“I can also make calls for clients and provide them with information on places to call to get the help they need,” he said.
Among Cancel’s goals while assisting clients is to destigmatize mental health issues. “Hingham has a history of not talking about mental health and substance misuse issues but rather, sweeping them under the rug,” he said. “The goal is to normalize not the behaviors but for people to feel comfortable discussing them. These issues happen everywhere.”
Cancel went on to say that it’s normal to sometimes have negative thoughts, but it’s how people handle them that makes the difference. “If people don’t feel free to talk about these issues, they can feel ashamed and sink into deeper depression and anxiety. The idea is to limit the shame and guilt.”
Cancel’s client base is residents ages 59 and younger, while the 60 and over demographic is a different category. A variety of services and assistance with a number of different issues is available for older residents at the Senior Center.
Issues Cancel can help clients navigate include finding another therapist when the one of choice has a long waiting list or guiding a parent seeking help for a child who is experiencing some kind of difficulty.
“This new position fills a deficit for residential assistance outside of Town Hall hours, focusing on preventative measures to help reduce the likelihood of difficult situations escalating into crises,” said Town Administrator Tom Mayo in announcing this new resource.
“The reception in the community so far has been positive,” Cancel said. “I’m excited about this opportunity and hope that residents will take advantage of this service.”
Cancel is available via text and phone call from 5 to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and in-person on Tuesdays, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hingham Public Library, 66 Leavitt St. He may be reached at (781) 783-2617 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cancel’s role is not intended to replace the resources for those in crisis. Residents with immediate needs should reach out to one of the following:
* 988 – National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline — call or text this number
* 911 — call to reach emergency dispatch services
The Hingham Police Department’s Community Crisis Response Clinician may be reached at (781) 749-1212, ext. 2222, or email email@example.com.
Residents seeking assistance are asked to wait for up to 24 hours for a response. Anyone in immediate crisis, or who knows someone who is, should request the services of first responders or the crisis line