Overview of the Social Work Profession



Every day, more than 650,000 social workers assist more than 10 million individuals in the United States. The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic needs of all people. The social work profession pays particular attention to persons who are ill or are experiencing mental, physical, or intellectual challenges, and to populations that are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. For more than a century, social work has achieved a reputation as the helping profession and has made significant contributions to the strength and vitality of the nation’s individuals, families, and communities.

Social workers help people to find solutions and assist those dealing with addiction, emotional distress, medical illness, poverty, discrimination, disasters, and other psychological, economic, and social issues. Social workers are integral to a wide variety of public and private-sector settings, including child welfare agencies, services for veterans and military service members, inpatient and outpatient health and mental health settings, services for older adults, schools, social services agencies, private practices, advocacy organizations, government agencies, and legislatures. The services social workers provide are vital to supporting the well-being of people throughout the United States. This fabric of service and care has become even more essential as economic inequality and health disparities increase, as the population ages, and as the middle class struggles to maintain stability.

Federal policymakers play critical roles in promoting policies that help individuals, families, and communities to fulfill their potential and to lead healthy, productive lives. Confronting vast societal challenges can only be achieved through a bipartisan approach that seeks sustainable and meaningful solutions to benefit Americans in need. To assist in this effort, NASW proposes several public policy recommendations for consideration by the executive branch and the 114th Congress.

Policy Solutions

  • Support passage of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act (S. 2173/H.R. 3712)

    • Create parity in Medicare reimbursement rates for clinical social workers (CSWs)
    • Expand the Social Security Act’s definition of “clinical social worker services” to include Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention (HBAI) codes
    • Enable residents of skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) to access psychotherapeutic services provided by clinical social workers
  • Support student loan forgiveness for social workers in underserved areas and areas of national need, during deliberations on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), and by providing funding to support implementation of the programs as authorized in the HEA
  • Increase funding for all OAA titles by at least 12 percent and remove the threat of budget caps sequestration
  • Support passage of the Social Work Reinvestment Act (S. 789/H.R. 1378)
  • Ensure that health and mental health services are available across the lifespan to all populations, especially people with low incomes
  • Expand resource allocation to maintain and increase the highly qualified workforce of professional social workers

For more information contact:
Dina Kastner, MSS, MLSP
National Association of Social Workers, 750 First Street, NE • Suite 800, Washington, DC 20002
NASW Member Services 800-742-4089 Mon-Fri 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET or
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