Economy Among Issues Addressed in Practice Updates

Five new social work practice updates, covering such topics as the recession’s implications for school social workers and delivering culturally appropriate care for older adults, are available for members to view on the NASW Web site.

Undoubtedly, the economic downturn has affected school social workers’ roles both personally and professionally. And it continues to do so, prompting NASW to prepare “The Economic Downturn: Implications for School Social Work,” a timely resource with suggested methods for addressing the effects of the recession in the school setting.

To ensure that students and families receive the support they need, the practice update suggests that school social workers take a proactive approach and help families plan ahead for financial stress and uncertainty.

The practice update also suggests that school social workers provide teachers and other school personnel with specific training on how to identify changes in students’ behavior that are symptomatic of poor coping; encourage families and teachers to adhere to normal roles and routines; help families with referrals to a treatment specialist; connect families and students to resources within their communities; and advocate for services.

Furthermore, the practice update reminds school social workers to take care of themselves as well.

“Due to extensive budget cuts, many school social work positions have been eliminated,” the update says. “Social workers may be facing eviction, foreclosure and financial hardship in their personal lives while having to counsel and support others struggling with the same issue in their professional lives. It is important for school social workers to focus on caring for their own needs and to look for signs of distress and burnout in their own lives.”

Another update, issued in November, proclaims: “Clinical Social Workers Be Aware: The ICD-10-CM Is Coming.”

For services on or after Oct. 1, 2013, health care providers, including clinical social workers, must begin using the expanded International Classification of Diseases-10th Edition-Clinical Modification (ICD-10-CM) code sets and updated standards to report health care diagnoses and procedures.

According to the practice update, implementation of the ICD-10-CM will improve the quality of reporting diseases by updating medical terminology and classification of diseases; allowing for expansion in code development; and providing specific diagnosis and treatment information for making clinical decisions, measuring care, tracking public health information, conducting research and processing claims.

“Because the conversion from ICD-9-CM to ICD-10-CM will require significant changes in clinical practice and administrative systems, clinical social workers should prepare now for the transition,” the update urges.

Preparation may include training to become familiar with the new codes; mapping ICD-9-CM codes to ICD-10-CM codes; upgrading or purchasing new practice management and electronic record systems to accommodate the data format of ICD-10-CM; becoming familiar with your billing services and clearinghouse implementation plans for ICD-10-CM; and testing ICD-10-CM transactions prior to the compliance date.

Also in November, NASW released “Delivering Culturally Appropriate Care for Older Adults.”

According to this practice update, the burgeoning and growing elderly minority population in the U.S. presents many challenges and opportunities for social workers in the delivery of culturally appropriate interventions. It notes: “An understanding of the client’s culture is of utmost importance in providing quality care.”

“[Social workers] will need to increase their communication and language proficiency skills and their understanding of cultures, that is, the traditions, history, values, and family systems of the elderly populations served in their agencies,” the practice update says.

The practice update goes on to say that social workers also have a responsibility to inform and educate communities about health disparities, work to eliminate them in the care setting and to advocate for marginalized populations.

“Social workers are especially suited to addressing childhood obesity with individual children and families,” NASW asserts in “The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: The Social Worker Response.”

According to this practice update, a third of all U.S. children and adolescents are either overweight or obese — a multifaceted problem that requires biopsychosocial solutions that address both the medical and mental health needs of the child.

The practice update includes a discussion of clinical interventions as well as ways social workers can advocate for and promote healthier eating and exercise habits in communities, such as advocating for healthier school lunches and encouraging professional associations to embrace menu-labeling laws that require restaurants to provide customers with calorie information on their menus.

“The urgency of addressing childhood obesity cannot be overstated. And social workers in any practice setting can play a role in reversing this epidemic,” the practice update concludes.

And finally, NASW has put together a resource outlining steps clinical social workers should take to ensure a continuum of services in the event they or a colleague pass away.

“Although you may not like to think about death, it is important for clinical social workers to consider provisions for their practice in the event of their death,” NASW says in “When a Clinical Social Worker in Solo or Group Practice Dies.”

Among other things, the practice update recommends clinical social workers discuss options for the estate of their practice with an attorney who is skilled and experienced in mental health law and prepare a professional will, which provides others with basic guidance for taking care of the unfinished business of a solo or group practice.

In the event that no preparation has been taken, the executor of the clinical social worker’s estate or designee should consider, among other things, consulting with an attorney about the estate, checking state laws regarding record retention after the death of a provider, notifying the professional liability insurance agency and appropriate managed care and insurance companies to inform them of the clinical social worker’s death.

These and other practice updates are available in the Practice section of the website.