NASW Builds on HHS Relationships

NASW continues to strengthen relationships with the Department of Health and Human Services. Most recently, NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark and staff met with Mary Wakefield, administrator at the Health Resources and Services Administration within HHS in July to discuss areas of mutual interest.

The meeting was an opportunity to express the urgency of addressing an anticipated work force shortage for social work in coming years. A report by the NASW Center for Workforce Studies states that approximately 30,000 social workers currently specialize in gerontology. By 2010, as more people reach age 65, the National Institute on Aging projects that 60,000 to 70,000 social workers will be needed.

"We hope that HHS and HRSA will consider working on efforts to address the expected shortfall," Clark said.

She said the meeting was a positive exchange and there are plans to further investigate how HRSA can utilize the resources of the association and the skills of the field's work force.

Upcoming HRSA projects would benefit from a social work perspective, Clark said, noting that Wakefield emphasized the importance of care coordination and how social workers can serve as care coordinators.

"We want to work with HRSA to alleviate the gaps in the health care work force," she said. "We hope this is a first in a series of meetings with key members of the Obama administration to address work force issues."

NASW also presented its transition recommendations for the Obama administration and explained the goals laid out in the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative and its corresponding bill, the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 795/S. 686), which seeks to create a commission on social work.

NASW provided Wakefield and her staff with handouts and flash drives containing material that explained NASW's Web education courses, its consumer Web site, credentialing program, NASW Press, work force studies and more.

HRSA staff also expressed interest in having NASW publicize the need for social workers in the National Health Service Corps as well as networking opportunities for people already serving in the corps.

Also attending the meeting were Joan Levy Zlotnik, executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research; Tracy Whitaker, director of the Center for Workforce Studies and Social Work Practice; and Rebecca Myers, special assistant to the executive director at NASW.

Another issue related to social work and HHS is the presidential nomination of social worker Carmen Nazario to be the assistant secretary for Children and Families at HHS. NASW submitted a letter of recommendation for Narzario's confirmation. It noted that the human services delivery system needs the guidance of a proven leader such as Nazario.

"Her social work training and distinguished record of public service at the federal, state and international level directing programs that promote the health and well-being of children and families has led us to believe that she is the right person for this position," the letter stated.

It outlined Nazario's extensive experience, from her work in the late 1960s at the Puerto Rico Department of Social Services to her appointment with the Clinton administration as the associate commissioner for child care in the Administration of Children, Youth and Families, and later as the principal deputy assistant secretary at that agency.

"During her tenure as director of Social Services in Loudon County, Va., Narzario's initiatives gained state and national recognition in the areas of reduction and prevention of foster care services and adolescent pregnancy prevention," the letter said.

Nazario is currently an assistant professor at the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico, where she teaches social policy and coordinates social work practicum at the School of Social Work. At press time, a confirmation hearing for the appointment had not been scheduled.

Another HHS-related activity involved NASW special assistant Myers attending a reception for Kathy Greenlee, the newly appointed HHS Assistant Secretary of Aging.

Before her appointment, Greenlee served as the Kansas state Secretary of Aging, heading a Cabinet-level agency with the mission of promoting the security, dignity and independence of seniors in that state. She had previously served as the long-term care ombudsman in Kansas, as well as the state's assistant secretary of aging.

"We had an opportunity to meet with Greenlee and I told her about our own aging studies," Myers said. "We plan to follow up the conversation by providing her office with our work force studies."