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Experts Promote Reinvestment Push

The Polsinelli team can offer expertise and legislative knowledge.

NASW has hired consulting firm Polsinelli Shalton Flanigan Suelthaus PC to provide federal lobbying services to promote the aims of NASW's Social Work Reinvestment Initiative (SWRI).

Polsinelli has assembled a team to work on the project, led by Anita Estell. The firm began working with NASW in mid-June.

"NASW's government relations staff will work with the Polsinelli team to advance this initiative," explained NASW General Counsel Carolyn Polowy. "The firm has special expertise that will help us reach SWRI goals."

Polowy said that team leader Estell's background as staff member for the House Appropriations Committee is crucial, because appropriations are an important part of the legislative goals of SWRI. "The breadth and depth of her experience and contacts will make her an invaluable asset," Polowy said.

SWRI is a coordinated effort to recruit, retain and retrain social workers. It is led by the ANSWER (Action Network for Social Work Education and Research) Coalition in collaboration with NASW. The initiative was launched during NASW's 2006 Annual Leadership Meeting and builds on the work of the 2005 Social Work Congress, the National Social Work Public Education Campaign, and a landmark study of the licensed social work labor force.

NASW assembled a review committee to select the consulting firm for SWRI from among the three firms that were approached to submit proposals. The team included NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark; government relations staff Jim Finley and Lawrence Moore; Special Assistant to the Executive Director Rebecca Myers; Polowy; and Joan Zlotnik, executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research, who is helping develop SWRI.

Polowy said that the firms were evaluated based on their legislative knowledge and their expertise in regulatory outreach, education, public relations, capacity building and political alliances.

The firm will assist with the development of the federal and grassroots strategies for SWRI, will help identify and develop contacts and connections to key legislators, will help coordinate current resources and will assist in developing legislative language and framework.

Polsinelli offered a proposal with a detailed strategy and timetable for advancing SWRI. Elements of the proposal include assessing the state of current legislation that relates to the initiative; expanding outreach on Capitol Hill through meetings and grassroots advocacy; conducting targeted Hill briefings and town hall meetings; requesting opportunities to testify before relevant congressional subcommittees; and promoting social work lobby day efforts.

"Our role will be to supplement, not supplant, your extraordinary strengths," the Polsinelli proposal stated. "Where appropriate, [we] will work to coordinate legislative efforts through local NASW programs and chapter organizations, the membership database and academic professionals."

Polsinelli was established in 1972, has offices in seven cities and employs more than 300 lawyers and other professionals. The Washington, D.C., office team has more than 80 years of combined experience on federal issues relevant to NASW's interests. Previously, the firm has represented organizations such as the Sickle Cell Disease Association of American and the United Negro College Fund.

Anita Estell, who will lead the team working with NASW, has worked in public policy and lobbying for 20 years and is the first African American woman partner to be hired by a major independent lobbying firm in Washington.

Estell is a former Clinton appointee. She worked as chief of staff for Johnnetta Cole on the Clinton/Gore Transition Team and as a senior adviser to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Richard Riley. Before her work with the Clinton administration, she served in an appointed position on the House Appropriations Committee where she monitored and managed legislative initiatives related to the budget and national security.

In her position with Polsinelli, Estell works with high-ranking administration officials and staff, members of Congress and their staff, and on researching, drafting and submitting recommendations, testimony and other materials to Congress. Her areas of expertise include minority health, HIV/AIDS, transportation, education, science and technology, energy and environment, telecommunications, correctional health care, community development, international development, arts and entertainment.

In its proposal, the firm summarized the current environment in Congress and concluded that "NASW has a narrow and unique opportunity to strengthen its efforts and accomplishments in a number of key areas, but most notably in the area of securing support and adoption of its Social Work Reinvestment Initiative.

"Key components of SWRI that will be supported by [Polsinelli] include garnering increased support for legislative efforts related to loan forgiveness; continuing support of the child welfare training entitlement; . . . and securing adoption and funding of the National Center for Social Work Research Act . . . and the Strengthen Social Work Training Act," the proposal stated.

For SWRI information:

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