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Chapters Developing Reinvestment Initiative Plans

SWRI aspires in part to secure federal and state investments in the profession.

NASW's 56 chapters each will be developing a Social Work Reinvestment Initiative (SWRI) plan this fall.

The chapters recently were invited to submit proposals outlining how they would use a special grant to further develop their own SWRI programs.

"The response has been great," said Rebecca Myers, special assistant to NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark. "The chapters are telling us they are very excited about this. Many states are making this their annual conference topic as well."

The grants are the latest effort in NASW's SWRI, which aspires in part to secure federal and state investments in the profession. Clark and Myers have been spreading the SWRI message to members across the country in recent months by attending chapter conferences.

Myers said that social workers have a long history of helping others as well as aiding in the creation of social service programs that benefit millions of people each day. However, social workers helping themselves has been long overdue, she said. "The SWRI aims to fix that."

Chapters will be submitting their final plans to NASW by Dec. 31. Besides the 50 states, NASW has chapters in New York City, Washington, D.C., Guam, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as well as an International Chapter. Chapter plans will be posted on the NASW Web site as they arrive so other jurisdictions can learn about the initiatives and goals of their neighbors across the country.

"Most states want to know what other states are doing," Myers said. This is helpful in proposing new legislation, she noted, as lawmakers can better judge a new idea by examining an existing policy in a neighboring state.

The SWRI was started in 2006 as an effort to counter an expected downturn in the profession's workforce as well as to unify the social work message, increase the profession's visibility and improve federal and state benefits for those in the field.

Some SWRI successes at the state level include loan-forgiveness and education incentives, enhanced licensing and legal regulation, improved pay for professional social workers, and public education.

A partial victory for the initiative was achieved in September. President Bush signed into law the College Cost Reduction and Access Act that will aid certain social workers in forgiving their college loan debts after 10 years of service [see related story].

Other national efforts include encouraging a change in Medicare legislation for clinical social workers to be able to bill independently for certain beneficiaries residing in skilled nursing facilities [see related story].

At the chapter level, the SWRI proposals vary for each jurisdiction, noted Myers. "This is because chapters are dealing with different issues," she said.

For example, the Ohio Chapter met with 26 social workers from several social work organizations to discuss the best uses for the planning grant. Ohio is proposing to develop three main focuses: assuring a qualified workforce; elevating the public's awareness of the efficacy of social work; and connecting research and practice to promote culturally competent practitioners. The funding is proposed to help pay for meetings, teleconferences and materials.

From the Guam Chapter, President Louise Toves said the grant will assist in further promoting the implementation of a licensing structure for social workers on the island. She said the funds would assist in collecting data on social workers in Guam.

In Virginia, the NASW chapter plans a multi-level approach in using the funds. A SWRI Task Force will use data from national surveys and get an overview of chapter initiatives over the past several years and use this information for a state plan. A student intern will help arrange regional meetings, draft letters and surveys and help synthesize information necessary for the task force to complete its plan. Possible final plans include efforts to petition for loan forgiveness, Medicaid reimbursement and social work public education campaigns.

For SWRI information:

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