With all sorts of emergencies happening all around us these days, the state could use a lot more emergency responders, and, on Monday, June 8, North Carolina got thousands of them in one fell swoop.

It did so with a mere classification change. The state designated child protective services workers and adult protective services workers as “Emergency First Responders.”

In a June 8 announcement from the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), state officials noted that this classification change will help workers in these groups get access to personal protective equipment (PPE) – the highly sought after masks, face shields, body coverings and other “PPE” needed while working in situations that involve face-to-face contact with adults, children and families during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the move will help the state’s social services workers do their jobs while remaining safe.

“Face-to-face contact is often essential for child protective services and adult protective services work,” Cohen stated in the press release announcing the change. “This designation will help these emergency workers have the tools they need to stay safe while continuing to serve vulnerable children, adults and families.”

Child protective services and adult protective services aid people of all ages who are suspected to have been, or known to have been, abused, neglected or exploited. According to state officials, those workers need access to complete information to effectively assess child and adult safety and well being.

“In many cases, the firsthand observation needed to obtain this information requires face-to-face contact with children, adults and families,” the June 8 press release notes.

The new designation for child protective services workers and adult protective services workers follows on the heels of other steps – such as making some welfare checks virtual – that are intended to limit face-to-face contact whenever possible.