Social Work in the Public Eye (October 2009)

Cindy WebbWKYC-TV reported on the good work performed by social workers and other health care professionals during the Medworks event in Cleveland. The station noted hundreds of health care professionals volunteered time to give free exams and treatment to the uninsured in the area. More than 1,600 patient appointments were logged during the weekend at the W.O. Walker building in University Heights and at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine.

NASW Ohio Chapter Executive Director Cindy Webb was among the volunteers. She helped recruit other social workers to assist with hundreds of people seeking free health and vision care over the weekend. In all, 32 social workers gave their time, Webb said.

"Social workers managed discharge and provided crisis mental health services," Webb explained. "During discharge, social workers ensured patients understood their medical orders, identified affordable resources to address health and basic needs, assisted with follow-up plans, and provided mental health services to distraught patients."

WKYC noted that many Clevelanders took advantage of the first-ever event. Some of the clients had not seen a doctor in years.

Webb said those who sought assistance ranged in age and their health care needs also spanned the spectrum — from the simple, like a pair of eyeglasses, to the serious, like a trip to the emergency room. "There were some who spoke little English and others who couldn't believe that one day they would be standing in a line for health care services," she said.

The executive director said many of clients were in tears as they thanked the health care professionals for their help. "We left realizing how we had served a minuscule fraction of those in need for an isolated moment in time and how desperately health care for all is needed now."


Maxine ThomeA Public News Service story highlighted the challenges faced by people who are diabetic and rely on Food Stamps. NASW Michigan Chapter Executive Director Maxine Thome, a Type 1 diabetic, was quoted extensively in the story as she took on the challenge to keep her blood sugar under control with a food budget of only $6 a day.

She said in the story that her blood sugar was so difficult to control that she had to break into a supply of sugar outside the food budget when her blood levels dipped dangerously low.

"What happens to people who are diabetic, on Food Stamps, that don't have adequate access to health care?" she said in the story.

Thome said Food Stamps play an important role in getting food on the table for families in Michigan, but there needs to be more focus on the quality of that food, especially for people with medical conditions.

"There isn't enough focus on the problems of insufficient access to nutrition and healthful foods," she was quoted as saying.

Thome chronicled her health during the challenge and is sharing the information with the University of Michigan. The university is doing a study about diabetic health for people using Food Stamps, the story noted.


Suzanne Belisle (no photo) was quoted in a story in the Lower Hudson Journal of West Harrison, N.Y,. about a survey that seeks to find out how older residents cope with stress.

Researchers are looking to interview county residents 60 years of age and older for the study.

The Mental Health Association of Rockland plans to use the findings from its survey to develop strategies and programs to target older adults as they experience changes, the story noted. Rockland is home to the fastest-growing population of people older than 60 in New York state.

"People have a lot of worries as they age," said Belisle, who is director of the Older Adults Wellness Ladder project. "They need to have enough money to retire. They begin to have physical ailments. Some people in their 60s are taking care of their parents."

Belisle would like to survey 135 more people particularly those ages 60 to 64, with emphasis on men and those of Asian and Hispanic backgrounds.

People in the early 60s are making major life transitions, she said in the story.

They are approaching retirement. They might be thinking about downsizing, or moving to a less expensive part of the country.

Money or health concerns could lead to other problems, such as getting enough sleep.

"Where would they turn for help?" Belisle said in the article. "And what type of help would they find useful?"

To plan for the county's aging population, Rockland Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell last year launched a study called "Project Tomorrow: Aging in Place."

Belisle said governments and nonprofit agencies are well aware of the demographic shift and looking for the best ways to serve seniors.

Belisle said the survey takes about an hour and all of the information is confidential. The interviewee lets the researcher know when and where they want to meet, in a home or a public place.

The questions cover the person's physical, economic and social health. As an example, Belisle said a person might be asked: If you had a problem, who would you talk to? By finding out these answers from a couple of hundred people, ideally representing the county's diverse population, she said mental health officials would have a better handle on trends and the best ways of spend their funding.

Although often lumped together as senior citizens, Belisle noted that older adults have different needs. For instance, a person 75 or older is likely to have experienced the death of a parent or sibling, altering their social network.


Mitch RosenwaldMitch Rosenwald, associate professor of social work at Barry University, was recently recognized as Social Worker of the Year for both Broward County and the state of Florida.

Rosenwald, a Fort Lauderdale resident, was selected for the award by both the state and local units of NASW. He was selected out of 18 local winners for the statewide recognition.

"Dr. Rosenwald was selected based on a variety of criteria — being an educator, advocate, local legislative liaison and active member of NASW on both the local and state level," said Seth Berkowitz, local NASW representative.

The Broward County chapter of NASW formally presented the recognition in March 2009 at its monthly meeting. Rosenwald received the statewide recognition at the NASW Florida state conference in Orlando.

"I am honored to receive these awards and proud to be part of a professional service organization that advocates on behalf of social workers and our clients in the state of Florida," Rosenwald said. He was nominated by a social worker from a local agency. Selection was done by an NASW Leadership Identification Committee at both the county and state level. It is his first professional recognition from the organization.