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Celebrating History During Social Work Month
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Celebrating History During Social Work Month
Message From The President

Patricia Brownell

April 2010


This last month in March we celebrated Social Work Month 2010. The theme of this year’s Social Work Month was: “Social Workers Inspire Community Action” because in every community social workers go above and beyond to make a significant change in the lives of thousands. Social workers often work in positions and organizations that allow them to see the full impact of a larger social problem in a community and many are driven to launch, lead and participate in efforts to address the roots of such problems. These dedicated social workers are who the NASW honor this March and you, the members of the NASW-NYC Chapter, exemplify these social workers!

The White House officially recognized Social Work Month in 1984. Since then, NASW has identified themes for National Social Work Month to celebrate the social work profession and how social workers benefit society. This year’s theme, recognizing social workers and community action, is especially fitting with President Obama, the “First Community Organizer,” in the White House.

Fitting with the theme of community action is Dr. Dorothy Height; an example of a social worker on the national level who embodies the values and ethics of the profession, according to NASW Executive Director, Dr. Betsy Clark. Dr. Height is a social work pioneer, President Emerita of the National Council of Negro Women, and one of the most recognized Civil Rights leaders in the United States.

As we celebrated National Social Work Month in New York City, we also celebrated a historic moment in social welfare policy history with the passage of the health reform bill on March 30th. This is an important social justice victory for progressives in this country, and it means many things to social workers serving low- and middle- income communities throughout the five boroughs in New York City. Some of the key items in the bill include:

• Adds 16 million people to the Medicaid rolls and sub sidizes private coverage for low- and middle
income people.

• Requires many employers to offer coverage to employees or pay a penalty.

• Provides coverage for up to 32 million uninsured.

• Forbids insurers to deny coverage to children with medical problems or suddenly drop coverage for people who become ill. Insurers must allow children up to 26 years remain on their parents’ insurance policies.

Exactly how the health care reform legislation will directly affect social workers in health, mental health, and community settings remains unclear. Since, for example, Medicare reimburses at the highest licensing level and the restrictive New York State licensing law only recognizes “psychotherapy” as clinical (which according to the NYS law is the “highest social work licensing level”), this remains a problem that those of us in the social work profession in New York State must continue to work to change. However, both NASWs in New York are working hard to address this problem and we look to all of you who are members of NASW to assist with the process.

Another triumph of the health reform bill passage is the simultaneous passage of the Elder Justice Act (EJA). Incorporated into the health reform bill, the Elder Justice Act is as important to vulnerable and abused older people as the Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was for children in 1974 and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was to women victims of abuse in 1994. The passage of the EJA is a historic event as it for the first time gives significant recognition and funding to elder abuse, neglect and self neglect of the elderly who are at risk or victims of elder mistreatment. The funding, once implemented, will strengthen Adult Protective Service (APS) programs across the country and in New York City, so that APS can be an even more important partner to community and institutional social workers, including social work discharge planners in the years ahead.

Discharge planning is an important clinical practice method and is a form of crisis intervention. It is theory based in that social workers who practice this method must have knowledge of lifespan development theory, stress theory, and family systems theory. They must have skills in work with family caregivers of the frail elderly and impaired children and adults, as well as an expert knowledge of how this all fits within the available resources in the community and within the hospital service system. It also requires expert skills on how to calm fears, work through resistance to change—as all health crises mean change to patients as well as their families, friends, and communities—and how to ensure stabilizing services bridging the hospital and the community-based service systems. It means working closely and collaboratively with other allied disciplines in the hospital and in the community, and sometimes standing up for patient rights!

While medical education is grounded in science, social work education is grounded in the humanities—this is why sometimes social workers are defined as human rights workers. Who was the whistleblower for the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment—a social worker! Social workers often work against the grain in organizations in advocating for clients, patients, and families in health care and other organizational settings, as well as in private practice. Social workers have a well-deserved reputation for commitment to clients, and community at every level and field of practice and I know you are deservedly proud to be members of the social work profession in New York City and the NASW-NYC Chapter!

As this is my last President’s Message to you before I end my term as your NYC Chapter President, I wish you all the best in the coming year! I thank you for everything you are doing for your clients, your patients, and your community. I encourage you to become active in NASW if you haven’t done so already. Make the NYC Chapter your professional membership home!

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