NASW Represented at BPD Annual Conference

NASW and the NASW Foundation’s Social Work Policy Institute participated in the 27th annual conference of the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors (BPD) in Atlanta.

The theme of the March conference was “Promoting a Culture of Social Justice: Social Work and Social Change.”

Elizabeth J. Clark, executive director of NASW; Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of SWPI; and Freddie Avant, immediate past president of BPD and associate dean, professor and director for the School of Social Work at Stephen F. Austin University, conducted a joint presentation called “Social Work Policy Institute: A National Think Tank for the Profession.”

They explained how SWPI will strengthen social work’s voice in public policy deliberations and energize efforts to collect and disseminate information on social work effectiveness through a process known as comparative effectiveness research, or CER.

Zlotnik also focused on promoting social work’s attention to CER since federal agencies received $1.1 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which passed in 2009. The Institute of Medicine determined the top 100 priorities for CER and nearly half of them relate to social work, Zlotnik noted.

Presenters also discussed how BPD and its members will help address gaps in connecting research/practice and policy as well as how it will link to the profession’s policy priorities, Zlotnik said.

For more information on social work and CER, visit: Social Work Research and Comparative Effectiveness Research.

In a different presentation, Zlotnik was part of a group of panelists addressing the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research in a meeting called “Social Work Research: Looking Beyond IASWR.”

Presenters explained that even though IASWR has been dissolved, its previous efforts to develop social work research and translate research into effective policy will live on through the Society for Social Work and Research, which has assumed some of IASWR’s research capacity building functions, and SWPI, which is working on translating research to policy.

SSWR and BPD will continue efforts to build a research infrastructure in BSW programs.

Women veterans: A roundtable presentation at the BPD conference by NASW’s Elizabeth Hoffler, special assistant to the executive director, focused on the special needs of female veterans. “Social Work with Servicewomen and Female Veterans” outlined the diversity of the military and the challenges facing women in the Armed Forces.

Hoffler explained that care of the nation’s veterans is changing. More than 1.9 million troops have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Army’s Mental Health Advisory Team, soldiers deployed to Iraq for more than six months, or deployed more than once, are much more likely to be diagnosed with psychological injuries, Hoffler said.

More than 10,000 Navy and Marine Corps women serve aboard combat ships; women of all military branches are involved in combat air missions as pilots, navigators and crew members; and women are serving in peacekeeping operations around the world. Despite this, the military remains the only profession in the U.S. where discrimination based on sex is mandated, she said.

Many women don’t report sexual offenses for fear that they will be ignored, exposed or punished, Hoffler said.

Nearly a third of female veterans in a nationwide sample who sought health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs said they were the victim of rape or attempted rape during their service, Hoffler’s presentation noted. Of that group, 37 percent said they were raped multiple times, and 14 percent reported they were gang-raped, Hoffler said.

More than a third of the 23,635 women veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and were evaluated at VA facilities had a preliminary diagnosis of a mental disorder.

Hoffler pointed out that female veterans face a host of unique challenges. For example, women often carry the burden of serving in the armed forces while balancing marriages, motherhood and caregiving responsibilities at home.

“Women are making extraordinary strides in the military and, while creating more inclusive armed forces, are also changing the way we must address many challenges facing our servicemembers,” Hoffler said.

The VA has made strides to address the issue, she explained. For example, the agency has created the Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group to provide a plan for a new generation of female veterans.

“Social workers offer a particular skill set and knowledge base that is beneficial, if not indispensible, to veterans who may return from war with a host of different challenges,” Hoffler said. She noted that the VA is the largest employer of social workers in the nation.

“In order to continue our tradition of caring for veterans while keeping pace with the increasing demand for our services, this pipeline of educated and trained social workers must remain in place and continue to grow,” she said.

In response to the emerging mental health crises of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, NASW has endorsed the Give an Hour campaign. A network of skilled volunteers, it aims to meet the mental health needs of troops and their families affected by the wars. Visit Give an Hour™ to learn more.