After nearly 22 years with the City of Evanston, Harvey Saver, assistant director of mental health services, retired last week. During his tenure with the City, Mr. Saver played many roles – he was a leader and coordinator of local mental health policy and community education; a liaison to the Mental Health Board, easing communication between the Board and the agencies it funds; and a personal case manager and crisis counselor who provided referrals and a calm voice to scores of Evanston residents who sought help for themselves or for loved ones but did not know where to begin.
Looking back on his career, Mr. Saver is proud of the work he has done to “facilitate and foster a network of agencies and individuals who work together.” He highlighted the success of various workshops and community education events. Whether it was to increase awareness of mental health issues in underserved minority populations or to offer a support network for low-income families to help them locate resources for their children, Mr. Saver said he was proud that he helped “bring people together to address the needs of the community.”
Mr. Saver also fondly remembered his work on improving housing for people with special needs. During the late 1980s and early 1990s when the City rewrote portions of its zoning code, he said he worked almost three years to develop licensing recommendations for alternative housing for the disabled. “Evanston is a much more accommodating community in terms of special housing,” he told the RoundTable.
His role as a one-on-one case manager seems like it would fall outside the job description of an assistant director, but Mr. Saver, an experienced social worker, said, “Bottom line is it’s services to the citizens of the community.” A service, it appears, that is unlikely to continue as the City undergoes a restructuring of the health department which includes the elimination of Mr. Saver’s assistant directorship position. The City plans to hire a management analyst, most likely with a master’s degree in public administration, to handle all grant-funding responsibilities for the health department, including Mr. Saver’s former responsibilities with the Mental Health Board.
“The perception of need in the community has changed,” Mr. Saver said, looking at the future of the City’s role in health services. He referred to recent shifts in budgetary priorities which have put more of an emphasis on the role of the non-profit sector in providing health services to the community. “I’m leaving here feeling I was the right person at the right time,” he said.