Social Work in the Public Eye (September 2010)

David K. Mineta (no photo) was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in June to be deputy director of demand reduction for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. NASW wrote a confirmation endorsement letter to lawmakers on behalf of Mineta earlier this year.

According the ONDCP, Mineta oversees ONDCP’s Office of Demand Reduction, which focuses on promoting drug prevention and drug treatment programs, as well as the agency’s newly created programs for individuals in recovery from addiction.

Richard Gil Kerlikowske, director of the ONDCP, said Mineta’s “appointment underscores this administration’s and this agency’s recognition of the essential role local communities have to play in preventing and treatment of drug use as well as in promoting recovery.”

Mineta’s focus of drug prevention and treatment services has been longstanding, the agency said in statement. Since 1996, Mineta has worked with Asian American Recovery Services throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He started as manager of a youth prevention program, but rose quickly to associate director and became deputy director in 2007. As deputy director, he oversaw all agency grantwriting and institutional technology departments, and assisted in strategic planning, community consortiums, and other necessary functions. Before joining AARS, Mineta was a counselor in the San Jose Unified School District and later in Santa Clara’s Alcohol and Drug Department.

From 2000-2010, Mineta served as a trustee with the Jefferson Union High School District in Daly City, Calif. In May 2009, he was appointed to the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention National Advisory Council.

Mineta studied Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley and earned an MSW from California State University, San Jose.


Laura StarrLaura Starr was profiled in a National Public Radio story produced by WBUR in Boston. The story pointed out that Starr is a social worker who makes house calls.

In one example, she visited a depressed mother who moved to the area from Guatemala seven years ago, the story explained.

Starr is working for the Visiting Nurse Association of Boston, a new program that sends social workers to homes of low-income mothers.

The mother in the story said she really needs Starr’s help.

Some studies show as many as 60 percent of low-income mothers suffer from depression, the article explained.

The story stated that these mothers are less likely to get treatment for their depression because of cost, no access to transportation or a fear of leaving their homes. Others, the story explained, fear being stigmatized if they seek help.

“Depression is something that really has a pervasive effect on somebody’s life,” Starr said. “It affects how they view themselves; it affects how they view the world. There’s really nowhere that depression doesn’t touch - and ultimately on the children.”

Since the program started in March, it’s found 15 low-income women who were depressed. Nine have signed up for treatment, the story pointed out.

The appointments at their homes are free. The mother profiled in the story said she finds Starr’s visits priceless.

“I feel better when I talk about my feelings and my depression,” she was quoted as saying.


Richard BarthRichard Barth was profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Barth, dean and professor of social work at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, was selected for a distinguished achievement award from the Society for Social Work Research.

The article noted that the honor recognizes his decades of contributions to the field, including “expert testimony that has helped strengthen the nation’s child-welfare laws.”

The story examined how Barth became involved in foster care issues.

He and his wife, who is also a social worker, adopted two children, ages 3 and 2, from foster care. Barth said he learned what it was like to be a client as well as a professor in dealing with children who have learning difficulties.

“Being a client as well as a professor is both humbling and identifies areas where you realize there are major gaps,” he was quoted as saying.

The story explained that Barth’s research, which documented high rates of homelessness among former foster children, helped shape legislation that provides financial support to children who aren’t ready to leave home at age 18.

Before this, he noted, there was little focus on what it is like for a foster child to be discharged from the system upon reaching adulthood.

The story stated his research also assisted in the passage of 1994’s Multiethnic Placement Act in Congress, which eliminated obstacles for children being placed with parents of another race.

Barth said fewer children are growing up in foster care now. The article stated that between 1980 and 2010, the number of domestic adoptions in the U.S. jumped from about 10,000 to 50,000 a year. But adoptive parents are not receiving enough new or different training and support, he is quoted as saying. “One of my goals is to continue to hammer away at that,” Barth said in the story.


NASW Minnesota Executive Director Alan Ingram and member Rick Reamer (no photos) were quoted in a Minnesota Public Radio story about the problems of non-compete agreements in the mental health profession.

The article profiled a mother whose young daughters had received services from a mental health worker who helped the girls adjust to school and cut down on behaviors like bedwetting and self-injury. When the mental health worker changed employers, a non-compete agreement with the agency she was leaving specified that she was not allowed to see her clients for one year. The girls’ mother said the change adversely affected her daughters.

Ingram said in the story that such agreements unfairly limit choices for consumers and can put the company’s financial interests ahead of the needs of people with mental illness. A strong therapeutic relationship is often the most important factor in whether the client will make progress, he said.

Under Minnesota law, non-compete agreements can be established if they protect a legitimate business interest and have reasonable time and geographic limits, the article explained. Some states have imposed restrictions for the mental health profession, but Minnesota has not.

Mental health ethics experts say non-compete agreements in that profession cause unique problems.

“I have to say it’s unprecedented in my experience, and I’ve been involved in thousands of cases around the country ... involving ethics disputes,” said Reamer. The story noted he is a national expert on social work ethics and one of the chief authors of the NASW Code of Ethics.

Mental health advocates said they hope the profiled family’s situation will convince state legislators to act on the issue.

Several states have banned non-compete agreements for medical doctors, and Massachusetts extended that ban two years ago to social workers, the story explained.

The situation raises a valuable lesson for mental health consumers, many of whom have no idea that their therapist or case manager would be unable to continue their care if the provider switched to a new agency.


Allison BlakeNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie swore in Allison Blake as the new commissioner of the Department of Children and Families in July.

Christie said, “Dr. Blake has a distinguished career as both a professor and public servant and I have no doubt her excellent track record will continue in my administration. She is a strong, experienced leader that will ensure that this key agency will be run effectively and efficiently.”

The NASW New Jersey Chapter noted on its blog that Blake was chapter president from 2005-2007.

“During that period, we made major strides in our chapter’s work on key issues, such as child abuse training in cooperation with schools of social work statewide,” the blog stated.

The Department of Children and Families is New Jersey’s state child welfare agency and encompasses Youth and Family Services; Child Behavioral Health Services; Prevention and Community Partnerships; Specialized Education Services; Child Welfare Training Academy; and the Centralized Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline.

DCF was created in July 2006 as New Jersey’s first Cabinet agency devoted exclusively to serving and safeguarding the most vulnerable children and families in the state.

Blake spent 18 years at the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, where she worked in various direct service and administrative positions. She later worked with the team charged with developing a blueprint for improving the capacity of the child welfare system to improve services to the state’s at-risk children and families.

Among her career highlights, Blake has served in several leadership capacities at the Council on Accreditation, an international organization that develops best practice standards for public and private organizations that provide services across the continuum of care throughout North America.

Blake is a faculty member at the Rutgers School of Social Work, where she teaches in the nonprofit and public agency management concentration. Also, she is the Region IV representative to the NASW Board of Directors.