Laurie Picus knows all about lives falling apart. Since moving to Colorado Springs in 1977, she has worked with a wide range of the city's afflicted: children and senior citizens with cancer, parents grieving the loss of a child, homeless persons with HIV.
The work, she acknowledges, can be tough. But after 30 years as a social worker, she's receiving widespread recognition.
Last month the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Social Workers named her co-recipient of the state's 2005 Social Worker of the Year award. Debbie Reinberg, the chapter's executive director, says Picus "really embodies the breadth of what social workers do."
A clinical social worker in private practice, Picus, 53, is a licensed psychotherapist whose focus is helping people with life-threatening diseases and end-of-life issues. She helped found the Pikes Peak Hospice and the Southern Colorado AIDS Project. In 2000, she ran as a Democrat for the Colorado House of Representatives and lost by a 15 percent margin to Rep. Keith King.
One reason she launched her ill-fated political career was her concern that poor people are living amid a health care crisis. "The dollars aren't stretching as far," she said. "People are having to choose to keep a roof over their head and letting their medical care go."
Because of this, she fills 10 percent of her private client roster with uninsured people who pay only what they can.
"It feels good to be useful," she said. "It feels good to see people come out OK."
-- By Dan Wilcock
Photo by Collan Fitzpatrick