Social Work in the Public Eye (October 2010)

An article in The Daily American Republic in Poplar Bluff, Mo., highlighted the role of rural social work when reporting the election of Elaine Mullins (no photo) to a two-year term as an at-large, rural member of the 13-member NASW Missouri Chapter Board of Directors.

Chapter Executive Director Tamitha Price was quoted as saying that Missouri is predominately rural and that Mullins will help represent and lobby on behalf of the rural Missourians.

The article explained that the social work post for Mullins in Neelyville, Mo., was first created in 2001 thanks to a grant from the state’s Department of Mental Health and Senior Services.

When funding ran out this year, the Neelyville School Board decided to cover Mullins’ salary based on the positive efforts she had made in linking families with necessary assistance, the article stated.

Neelyville School Board Secretary Duke Hansen told the newspaper that Mullins is a blessing to the community and the school district. He said Mullins’ many years of experience will benefit the state in her new role at the NASW chapter.

School Superintendent Brad Hagood told the newspaper that “a price tag cannot be put on Mullin’s work.”

“She’s a very good employee,” Hagood added. “But more importantly, she’s a very good person.”

The article pointed out that Mullins is a coordinator for homeless issues and the school’s truancy court liaison.

“I always wanted to help the ones who needed it most,” Mullins told the newspaper. She added, “I can no longer imagine doing anything else. With the experience I have behind me, knowing firsthand the needs of our area, I feel comfortable asking questions and truly believe I can make a difference.”


Chester TaranowskiChester Taranowski was quoted in Ann Meyer’s weekly “Minding Your Business” column in the Chicago Tribune.

The article focused on the changes taking place for mental health and substance abuse issues as they relate to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which won approval in 2008. It lifts workplace treatment limits for substance abuse and mental health conditions such as depression.

Taranowski, an employee assistance coordinator in Chicago, said in the article: “Getting people help will make the workplace a better environment.”

Meyer wrote, “While mental health parity has been in the works for decades, loopholes allowed limitations on treatment for mental health and substance abuse not imposed on other medical conditions. That meant addicted workers who wanted help often couldn’t afford the treatment necessary for a full recovery. But the new act should change that.”

Taranowski was quoted as saying that “it’s not weak people” who suffer from mental health and substance abuse issues. “It’s you and me, your neighbor, your son, your wife.”

Taranowski said that about 20 percent of the population will have a major depressive disorder sometime during their lifetime, while others will suffer from anxiety or bipolar or other disorders.

The columnist wrote that while some speculate that the extended coverage will result in excessive use and in turn boost the cost of health care, other experts predict the opposite effect.

“People with complex problems were burning out their health plan benefits,” Taranowski said in the column. Now, he said, “people will actually get the help they need.”


Elizabeth BabcockElizabeth Babcock was quoted in the Washington Observer Reporter in Pennsylvania in a story about how she helps people cope with the death of their pets.

Babcock, a licensed clinical social worker in McMurray, Pa., said she thinks people are closer to their pets now than in the past, and those relationships are more accepted in today’s society as well.

“As society has become more technology-based, our contact needs are often met by our pets,” the article notes. While we may love our parents more, we see our pets every day, Babcock said in the story.

“They’ve come to occupy a more emotional place,” she said.

Pets offer easier relationships for people because they are nonjudgmental and non-demanding, Babcock said. When pets die, a person can feel emotionally vulnerable, which is heightened by the ease of those relationships, the article stated.

The grieving process can be as emotionally draining as losing a human, Babcock said. “Pet owners are losing a critical part of their life and they need to determine how to put the puzzle back together in a way that makes sense,” the article stated.

Babcock suggested healthy ways to grieve, which allow for time to heal the emotional wounds.

“One month should be a little less terrible than the month before,” she said in the story.

Babcock suggested that pets should not be given to someone who has just lost an animal. And she also she said she thinks more people are grieving openly for their pets, which is healthy.

“That kind of pain is going to be there whether you express it or not,” she said in the article.

The story noted websites such as Pet Loss Grief Support have cropped up as an online way to deal with grief.


Sandra HernandezSandra Hernandez, executive director of Colorado Springs’ Centro de Familia, was quoted in the Colorado Springs Independent in a story about how she has seen a rise in children feeling depressed and even suicidal after a parent or a loved one is deported from the U.S.

The story noted that Centro offers free or low-cost counseling to families. Because Colorado enacted several laws in recent years to crack down on undocumented immigrants, Hernandez said she is worried the situation for young people caught in the middle may grow worse in light of Arizona’s attempt to expand its immigration law.

Hernandez recounted a recent situation in which a father was facing deportation, to the horror of his two young sons, who were both American citizens.

“You could tell that [the] dad was very nurturing, spent a lot of time with his boys, played a lot of soccer with his boys, took them to the movies, that they went fishing ... and when [the] dad was in jail for three months, these kids really deteriorated,” Hernandez was quoted as saying.

She added, “The one little boy, the oldest one, he became suicidal; he was making suicidal threats. I think he was about 9 or 10 — 9 or 10 — and he was basically saying, ‘I’m going to kill myself. I’m going to hurt myself. I don’t want to live.’”

Typically, Hernandez said, deportation of a loved can be a drawn-out process that is emotionally draining.

She told the newspaper: “What we’re dealing with here is that there’s no resolution to ‘What’s going to happen with my dad?’” Children fear that their father may be taken away in the middle of the night, she said. Then they fear the entire family may have to move out of the U.S.

Such situations, the story stated, leave children feeling depressed, anxious, aggressive and unable to concentrate in school. They can also suffer from nightmares and self-esteem issues because of the stress.

For example, the article pointed out that Hernandez is currently working with an 8-year-old who stopped speaking when her father was picked up by authorities.


NASW Arizona Chapter Executive Director Carol Stambaugh (no photo) was quoted in a Public News Service article about the state’s health insurance program for children of the working poor, known as KidsCare.

Because of the new federal health care law, eliminating Kids-Care could cost the state $7 billion for its indigent health plan, the article explained.

Arizona House Democrats want to raise the $21 million needed for KidsCare by expanding sales tax to extended warranties on such items as TV sets. Stambaugh said legislative leaders should not ignore this potential solution.

“It’s simply careless and reckless to not do anything at this point,” she was quoted saying. “If this is an option to be able to fund the KidsCare so that we are able to maintain our efforts, then I think it’s absolutely something that must be explored.”