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Nov_Dec 13 Currents NASW-NYC Priorities
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NASW-NYC Priorities Set at Leadership Retreat


Forty members of the Chapter Board of Directors, committee and task force chairs, and staff gathered at the Kennedy Center of Harlem for theChapter’s Leadership Retreat in
Sunday, October 6. Discussion focused on advancing the Chapter priorities. Almost everyone wore NASW-NYC t-shirts that read “Social Work is Social Justice.”












Inequality and Poverty in NYC,
Social Work Salaries, Reimbursement, and Loan Forgiveness,
at Heart of Chapter Program

In the past year, under the leadership of Chapter President, Dr. Martha Adams Sullivan, NASW-NYC has been preparing the foundation for two major areas of work, relating to economic equity for our clients and ourselves, as social workers.

A year ago, in October 2012, the Chapter’s Board of Directors and committees chairs, in a leadership retreat, identified these areas to be priorities.  More recently, on October 6 of this year, a follow up retreat operationalized the program that will roll out in the coming months.
The program is projected for several years, with room for it to evolve.

Creating the Poverty Tool Kit

A poverty tool kit is being developed and will address the following areas: 

1) Housing 6) Disabilities  11) Anti-poverty Programs 
2) Hunger 7) Mental Health 12) LGBTQ Communities
3) Immigration 8) Women 13) Communities of Asian Descent
4) Health Care 9) Children 14) Communities of Latino Descent
5) Aging 10) Homelessness 15) Communities of African Descent

The tool kit will consist of accessible and useable briefs that underscore the magnitude of poverty in New York City, as well as in the country, and will include recommendations for addressing these conditions. They are intended for use by faculty and students, social workers in the field, and for advocacy with elected officials in New York City and Albany.  Coalition building with other organizations is also intended.

The target date for the completion of the tool kit is January 1, 2014.


Social Justice Advocacy

The Social Work Equity Project has already enhanced the Chapter’s capacity to engage in social justice advocacy.  Since the spring, the Chapter adopted a resolution committing the Chapter to addressing racial equity, and issued statements in opposition to the City’s on Stop and Frisk policy and the issues relating to the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial.

A second statement on Stop and Frisk, opposing the Mayor’s appeal of a federal court ruling to end the policy, was submitted into the court to bolster the case to deny the appeal and uphold the original ruling.  The Center for Constitutional Rights expressed the opinion that a statement reflecting the views of social workers would strengthen the case in court.

Making Salaries, Reimbursement and Graduate School Debt a Major Priority

The NASW-NYC leadership recognizes that addressing the needs of clients, which is why we are social workers, cannot be done in a vacuum.  The circumstances of social worker’s lives, our well-being, is directly related to the well being of our clients. 

At the heart of this is economic: salaries, reimbursement and school debt.

In a recent survey of members, addressing inadequate salaries was identified in the open ended responses more than any other activity that NASW could engage in.  This was recently discussed at the Chapter’s Leadership Retreat on October 6. 

The following issues were identified as being related to inadequate salaries:

  • That social workers provide an enormously valuable and effective service, which is unique as it addresses the multiple systems impinging on people’s lives, yet salaries do not reflect the
    importance of this work, nor the level of education and experience that is being brought to bear.
  • Social workers often have to work multiple jobs in order to provide for basic life’s needs, including paying rent and paying off graduate school loans.

The Chapter is in the beginning stages of conducting a survey of what employers pay social workers, including entry level salaries and whether salaries go up after years of service, for merit, or to keep up with the cost of living.  A salary impact statement is also being developed and will be a center piece for rallying social workers to assert the need for change.

The Salary Project will be aimed at government funding as well as at employers and foundations that fund social work programs.  The Chapter has noted that some CEOs have made it a fund raising priority with their boards of directors to address social work salaries, and the Chapter will advocate for this to be more widespread.

Social Work Reimbursement

Social work reimbursement for clinical practice is also going to be a priority of the Chapter.

In the Leadership Retreat dramatic changes affecting social workers in private practice were discussed. The following issues were identified;

  1.  It is extremely difficult to get into managed care networks, and for those who are onpanels, reimbursement has being reduced, often with little or no notice.  This makes
    sustaining a practice very difficult.
  2.  Medicare is understood to be the rate setter in the country, whether one sees clients on Medicare or not.  That Medicare reimburses clinical social workers at 75% of what psychiatrists are paid is an insult to the social work profession.  Other allied health professionals are reimbursed at a higher percentage compared to physicians than social workers, other areas of health care..  This needs to change.

Several obstacles make it difficult to change reimbursement, and will be challenges for the profession in order to make any difference.

  • Federal law prohibits the organizing of providers to protest the rates that private insurers pay their providers, and doing so is considered to be engaging in restraint of trade.
  • Getting Medicare to change its rates requires lobbying Congress at a time when cutting the costs of Medicare is a major political issue. Even under ideal circumstances, lobbying Congress is a formidable and expensive undertaking.

NASW-NYC will be working with National NASW and other Chapters to identify what options NASW has in this area, as well as how to enable clinicians to be more effective in working with insurance companies.

Loan Forgiveness

Graduate school debt, combined with inadequate salaries, makes entry into the profession extremely difficult.  NASW-NYC successfully lobbied the State legislature in 2005 to create the New York State Loan Forgiveness Program, and over $7 million has been expended to date.  Nevertheless, the amount of funding each year only allows for approximately 150 licensed social workers to benefit from the program at a time. To address this, the two NASW chapters in new York, along with the Association of Deans of the Schools of Social Work, plan to seek an increase to the funding level for the program.


Other Activities: Continuing Education Just Mandated in State Law

NASW-NYC will also be preparing for New York State’s new mandate for continuing education for licensed social workers.  The bill passed by the legislature in June was sent to Governor Cuomo and he signed it into law.  The mandate will not go into effect until January 1, 2015. 

The requirement, for 36 hours of continuing education over a three year period, will not apply to new license holders.  The requirement applies to social workers after they renew their license for the first time.  NASW-NYC is planning to make available continuing education opportunities that are modestly priced, with steep discounts for members.

For more on this mandate, as well as on stop and frisk, go to, and look at the News items on right side of page.

   While most of the Retreat was spent in discussing the Chapter’s poverty project, intersectionality and multiculturalism, salaries and women’s empowerment, time was taken to
   network as well as to learn the electric slide!




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