Towns Pushes SWRA as Part of Health Reform

Edolphus Towns

Efforts to attach the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 795, S. 686) to health care reform legislation were under way this fall by U.S. Rep. Edolphus ("Ed") Towns, D-N.Y., lead sponsor of the House bill who is also a social worker.


Towns expressed the need to reinvest in the profession of social work, telling lawmakers that social workers are a key component to improving the nation's overall health care services.

In a letter to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Towns asked that any health reform legislation include the Social Work Reinvestment Act's goal to establish a Social Work Reinvestment Commission.

"Social workers are an essential part of the health care team," Towns said in the letter. The commission would study the workforce and issue a report to Congress on the need for recruitment, retention, research and reinvestment in the profession, he said.

"I believe that when reforming the nation's health care, it is vital we take a reasonable and thought-out approach to the social work profession," Towns said. At this story's deadline, the social work reinvestment bill had 74 co-sponsors in the House and nine co-sponsors in the Senate.

Besides efforts to attach the bill to health care reform legislation, NASW has continued its outreach efforts not only to lawmakers, but also to members of the White House staff.

NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark and staff participated in a variety of meetings and conference calls with the White House in recent months and have continually communicated the need for the establishment of a Social Work Reinvestment Commission, said Elizabeth Franklin, project manager and lobbyist at NASW.

Clark recently joined Jeane Anastas, chair of the Action Network for Social Work Education and Research, and Freddie Avant, president of the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors, in meeting with Towns to discuss social work reinvestment.

"It is wonderful having a social worker in Congress who understands and fully supports our profession," Clark said.

Franklin said the association's overall strategy at the local, state and federal levels as well as the executive branch is succeeding in getting more co-sponsors for the reinvestment bill.

"A vital piece of our advocacy is the grassroots mobilization of our 150,000 members," Franklin said. "We continue to incorporate a variety of tools in our outreach efforts by using social and professional networking websites, including Capwiz, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter."

Franklin is featured in the latest social work reinvestment video, where she stands by several Washington landmarks that relate to famous social workers who have made a difference. Franklin speaks outside the Frances S. Perkins Department of Labor building and explains how Perkins, a social worker, was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor, thus becoming the first female Cabinet member.

Dorothy Height

In another scene, Franklin stands by the Dorothy I. Height building of the National Council of Negro Women. Height served as president of the organization from 1957-1997 and still serves as president emeritus.


"She is one of the most influential figures in the civil rights movement and is still working every day to secure equal rights for women and people of color," Franklin says in the video, which asks in its title: "Can we live up to the social work legacy?"


In another development, the Congressional Black Caucus of the 111th Congress met in June and named the Social Work Reinvestment Act as one of its "42 Bills to Watch."

The recognition means the bill promotes building healthy families and healthy communities, recognizing the dignity of all human beings regardless of race or economic circumstances.

Towns, a member of the CBC, said that "social workers are an intricate part of the socioeconomic fabric of the nation. Our focus is not on monetary gain, but on improving the lives of each individual that we assist.

"Whether working on individual cases, or on policy issues, we focus on helping others — and we are needed now more than ever before as our nation tackles challenges of a magnitude we have not faced in decades."