Support Urged for Social Work Reinvestment Act

Ed Towns— Heidi Sfiligoj, News Staff


"The shortage of professional social workers affects the overall outcome of health care services and operations," said U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns.

As the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 795/ S. 686) continues to gain momentum in Congress, a variety of steps are being taken to ensure passage of the bill. The Action Network for Social Work Education and Research is still supporting broad efforts at many levels including grassroots activity, as well as a variety of legislative actions.

NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark created a new video advocacy message, encouraging social workers to support the Social Work Reinvestment Act and contact their members of Congress to ask them to co-sponsor the bill. As of early August, the video had been viewed more than 11,000 times. This method of outreach has become increasingly effective as more social workers visit the NASW You Tube channel to view succinct messages and take action.

Further, sister social work and allied organizations continue to be approached to formally support the legislation. The National Association of Black Social Workers, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Latino Social Work Organization are the most recent supporters of the bill. A full list of supporting organizations can be found on the Social Work Reinvestment Website.

In Congress, the SWRA is gaining co-sponsors and had 65 in the House and seven in the Senate at the beginning of August. Since its reintroduction in the 111th Congress, more than 30,000 social workers have asked their representatives and senators to support the legislation through postcard campaigns, e-mail messages and handwritten letters. Most recently, NASW board members sent their members of Congress personalized letters of support.

On the House side, Rep. Edolphus Towns, a lead sponsor of the SWRA, is supporting the inclusion of the Social Work Reinvestment Commission in health care reform legislation. On July 16, Towns sent a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, urging Waxman to consider including the SWRC as an amendment to health care reform legislation.

"The SWRC is nearly cost-neutral, yet will have a tremendous effect on the state of the nation's healthcare. The shortage of professional social workers affects the overall outcome of health care services and operations," Towns states in the letter. "The recruitment, retention, and reinvestment in the profession of social work are necessary in building healthy communities. Therefore, I urge you to consider including the SWRC in the upcoming health care reform legislation."

Towns also included H.R. 795 in the Congressional Black Caucus Bi-Annual Report, titled "Opportunities for All - Pathways Out of Poverty." Towns chose SWRA as his bill to include, saying it will "promote building healthy families and healthy communities, recognizing the dignity of all human beings regardless of race or economic circumstances."

NASW sent letters to Towns and Barbara Lee, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, to thank them for including the SWRA as a bill important to the 600,000 social workers across the country, but more importantly to the millions of clients served by social workers each day.

H.R. 795 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Competiveness. NASW has met with staff in the office of Chairman Ruben Hinojosa to convey the importance of quick action on the SWRA in the subcommittee. NASW also sent out an appeal for grassroots communications to members who reside in the subcommittee members' districts, urging swift movement on H.R. 795, as the SWRA is timelier now than ever. Additionally, NASW has been in communication with the House Committee on Education and Labor in preparation of the legislation's possible advance to that level.

Finally, NASW meets regularly with a variety of representatives and senators.

"We are focusing our outreach on possible Republican co-sponsors," Clark said. "We continue to meet with all key members of Congress, urging them to become co-sponsors and actively work to ensure passage of this legislation."