NASW to Honor Recipients of 2009 National Awards

Dorothy I. HeightDorothy I. Height will be presented with the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award.

NASW will honor its 2009 National Awards recipients April 23 at a ceremony in Washington.

The awards — Lifetime Achievement Award, Social Worker of the Year, Public Elected Official of the Year and Public Citizen of the Year — honor social workers and others who have, through their work or advocacy, advanced the principles and vision of the profession.

“The recipients of our 2009 National Awards have made inestimable contributions to the field of social work, and in doing so have alleviated suffering, advanced freedom, promoted equality under the law, and helped create a better future for our children,” NASW President James J. Kelly said.

Dorothy I. Height was NASW’s clear choice for the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Dr. Height is a civil rights icon whose tireless effort on behalf of others exemplifies the social work commitment to social justice and advocacy,” NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark said. “She is an inspirational leader whose legacy will be one of strength, determination and great achievement for future social work leaders to follow.”

At age 98, Height continues to advocate for social justice as the chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the largest civil rights coalition in the U.S., and as chair and president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women.

The scope of Height’s accomplishments is vast and has earned her national recognition, including the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1997 by President Bill Clinton and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2003.

Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., both social workers, introduced the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act in honor of Height and fellow civil rights leader Whitney Young. It is the most comprehensive piece of federal legislation ever created to address the challenges facing the social work profession.

Megan BertholdS. Megan Berthold is receiving the 2009 NASW Social Worker of the Year Award.

For her work to help refugee survivors of torture through service and advocacy on their behalf, NASW named S. Megan Berthold its 2009 Social Worker of the Year.

Berthold is a clinical social worker and director of research and evaluation for the Program for Torture Victims, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that provides free psychological, medical and case management services to victims of state-sponsored torture.

“Dr. Berthold has touched the lives of many through the broad reach of her work with victims and her deep commitment to social justice, and is a deserving recipient of our recognition,” said Clark.

NASW named Massachusetts State Rep. Ruth Balser its 2009 Public Elected Official of the Year for her dedication to social justice, health care, education and mental health issues.

A clinical psychologist by training, Balser’s work on behalf of parents and children began during her years as a city board member for Newton, Mass., from 1988-1996. Realizing the lack of affordable child care in the city, she began the Newton Child Care Commission, a group whose aim is to raise funds to provide vouchers for quality day care to families in need.

Ruth BalserMassachusetts State Rep. Ruth Balser is NASW’s 2009 Public Elected Official of the Year.

In 1999, Balser was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Her most recent legislative success was in the area of mental health parity. After 10 years of lobbying, advocating and coalition building, the state legislature in 2008 passed a mental health parity bill that extends full parity of coverage to sufferers of substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and autism.

“Ruth Balser has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in proposing and passing legislation to expand services for mentally ill children and adults,” said NASW President Kelly. “She is a worthy example of how critical it is for health care professionals to be involved in government.”

And finally, Harold House is NASW’s 2009 Public Citizen of the Year for his advocacy on behalf of incarcerated juveniles with mental health disabilities.

House’s three decades of advocacy have resulted in vast improvements for children in foster care, as well as disabled students incarcerated at the Indiana Department of Corrections. He has raised more than $200 million in funding for juvenile justice and delinquency programs and has traveled the nation to promote improvements to the mental health system.

House was influential in establishing several education programs for underserved youth, including the Vermillion County Opportunity Program, Indiana Pacers Academy and the Federal Magnet Programs for Indianapolis Public Schools.

Before moving to Indiana, House served as mayor of Owensville, Ohio, where he led a campaign to eradicate drug trafficking affecting children in the community. In 2003, he was honored by the Indiana House of Representatives with a resolution recognizing his efforts on behalf of troubled minority youth.

“Harold House has been an exemplary public servant and champion for youth who often don’t have a voice,” Kelly said. “His dedication to improving the lives of children is admirable and is deserving of our recognition.”

All of the recipients are expected to attend the awards ceremony, which will take place at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

Last month, the NASW Foundation honored its 2009 award recipients. At a ceremony in Washington, Samira K. Beckwith received the Ruth Knee/Milton Wittman Award for Lifetime Achievement in Health and Mental Health Practice and John E. Hansan received the International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award for Advancing the Public Understanding of the Social Work Profession.

Ronald W. Manderscheid, who could not attend the ceremony, was the recipient of the Ruth Knee/Milton Wittman Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health and Mental Health Policy. NASW Foundation Director Robert Carter Arnold said Manderscheid will be presented with his award at a later date.

A story in the Sept. 2009 issue of NASW News profiled the Foundation awards recipients.