Nearly 100 social workers from 44 states and two U.S. territories attended 143 meetings with Congressional offices in the U.S. House and Senate on June 28, 2023, to build bipartisan support for key federal legislation that will assist the social work workforce, our clients, and communities.
The Advocacy Day is part of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Association Leadership Meeting that is attended by social work leaders from across the country.
(Left to Right) Rebekah Gewirtz, Executive Director, Massachusetts & Rhode Island Chapter; Meredith Sinel, President, Rhode Island Chapter; Sarah Butts, Director of Public Policy, NASW National
“NASW’s Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill is an opportunity for social workers to share their knowledge, experience and expertise with Congressional lawmakers and their staff. Our voices are critical as we try to advance policies that will expand access to mental and behavioral health services nationwide,” NASW Director of Public Policy Sarah Butts, MSW, said.
“Having social workers on Capitol Hill is crucial for the public policy work of NASW. Constituents matter in Congress. Social workers coming from across the country to advocate for our profession and our social justice priorities makes a real difference,” says NASW Senior Field Organizer Dina Kastner, MSS, MSLP.
Participants were briefed about NASW’s priority legislation and greeted by NASW CEO Anthony Estreet, PhD, MBA, LCSW-C, who assumed his role on February 6. “This is my first time as CEO of NASW to see the Advocacy Day in action. The work of our chapter leaders is essential in advancing NASW’s public policy priorities,” says Dr. Estreet.
(Left to Right) Dafna Berman, President, Wisconsin Chapter; Kristi Wood, NASW Board of Directors, Director, Region VIII; Marc Herstand, Executive Director, Wisconsin Chapter
“NASW Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill is a critical part of the work the NASW staff and leadership do on behalf of the members of NASW and the entire social work profession. In addition to having relationships with Congressional staff in the state districts, this day is an opportunity to meet with DC staff to advocate for higher reimbursement rates for clinical social workers,” says Valerie Arendt, MSW, MPP, executive director of the NASW North Carolina Chapter. “NASW-NC Board President Rosalie Calarco and I were able to stop by and speak with 14 Congressional offices today. NASW membership matters as there is no other group advocating for all areas of our great profession.”
“At our NASW Capitol Hill Day, we found that every single legislative staff member, both Democrat and Republican, recognizes mental health and wellness as a priority issue. We social workers need to develop relationships with our members of Congress to improve our ability to advocate for NASW’s legislative agenda, which will benefit our clients and our profession,” said Victor Manalo, PhD, MSW, president of the NASW California Chapter.
“We had three meetings with staff members of the Iowa congressional delegation. Iowa has a severe mental health professional workforce shortage, and all of the staff we spoke with seemed to understand the need to increase the number of and access to social workers for Iowans,” said Denise Rathman, MSW, Executive Director the NASW Iowa Chapter. “They were particularly aware of the importance of telehealth for clients and social workers. It was a great opportunity to build relationships with DC policy makers.”
Participants urged support for the following bills, which aim to help advance the social work profession and help the clients and communities we serve.
(Left to Right) Francie Julien-Chinn, President, Hawaii Chapter; Sonja Bigalke-Bannan, Executive Director, Hawaii Chapter
The Improving Access to Mental Health Act (S. 838/H.R. 1638): Raises the reimbursement rates for clinical social workers and expands access and the scope of practice.
The School Social Workers Improving Student Success Act (H.R. 1415): Increases the number of social workers in elementary and secondary schools, while developing strategies for improving the effectiveness of the school social work workforce.
The More Social Workers in Libraries Act (H.R. 3006): Funds social work university students in regional libraries and employs a qualified social worker to oversee the social work student interns.
The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act (S. 1452/H.R. 3073): To enhance and sustain population level mental wellness and resilience through community initiatives, and awards grants for the purpose of establishing, operating, or expanding community-based mental wellness and resilience programs.
Check out our blog to learn more about what each bill does for social workers and what we asked members of Congress to do during our Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill.