Social Work in the Public Eye (July 2016)

The importance of housing and health care was the focus of an in-depth story published in the CT Mirror.

Paula CrombieNASW member Paula Crombie, director of the Department of Social Work at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, is quoted in the article.

“Housing and health care are tied totally,” she is quoted as saying. “If we get somebody housed who was homeless, their impact on health care is significant. They’re pulled out from the high utilizers to just a normal utilizer. It’s kind of amazing when you think about it.”

The article notes that in one hospital’s experience, when a person gets into stable housing, his or her emergency room visits drop by an average of 80 percent.

Crombie mentions a study of the hospital’s homeless patients, which found that the vast majority – 80 percent to 85 percent – are covered by Medicaid.

Crombie and her staff worked with registration and admission staff, doctors, nurses and social workers to change the question of “Are you homeless?” to “Where will you go to recuperate? Where were you last night? Do you need a safe place to stay?”

Asking a returning patient what happened since they got out of the hospital and if they were able to recover has another benefit, Crombie says in the story.

“Right away you’re getting at a different level and you’re building a different relationship with the patient,” she said.

Helen HunterNASW member Helen Hunter is quoted in the New Jersey Jewish News about the rise of elder abuse, based on a presentation she made at a meeting of the Greater MetroWest CARES (Committee Addressing Resources for Eldercare Services).

The committee is a collaboration between the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey and its partner agencies, whose purpose is to create a continuum of care for adults 60 years and older.

“The number of people aging is increasing, and they are living longer,” Hunter says in the article. “Many are being cared for at home, and possibly some caregivers are not trained to know how to deal with folks who are in bad condition.”

This situation means there is a lot of education and awareness that needs to be out there, said Hunter, who is an independent geriatric social worker consultant and trainer from Middlesex Borough. She has worked with senior citizens for 34 years, the article notes.

The meeting was held in response to the growing concern regarding the issue of elder abuse, as reflected in the New Jersey legislature’s recent approval of bipartisan legislation that would establish a “New Jersey Task Force on Abuse Against the Elderly and Disabled.” The bill has passed both houses and is awaiting consideration by Gov. Chris Christie, the article points out.

Jesse Bennett told the North Carolina Health News that when he was homeless, he couldn’t figure out “how to stop sticking a needle in my arm.”

“I wanted to, [but] I guess I didn’t have the capacity to understand how to stop,” he is quoted as saying.

Eventually, Bennett found recovery and today is a counselor at the drug-treatment program, now known as Healing Transitions, the article says. He also is an advocate, and spent a day recently at the general assembly talking to state legislators about his recovery.

Chris BudnickNASW member Chris Budnick, executive director of Healing Transitions, is quoted in the article, saying it can take months for the brains of people who have been using alcohol, opioids or other drugs to get to a place where they can really imagine being without that drug.

“Research with brain scans show that your brain is still not back to normal functioning for many months,” Budnick said. “Anything short of 90 days of engagement is not effective.”

The gathering was held as some lawmakers were in a committee meeting considering legislation to make it possible for people in North Carolina to more easily obtain naloxone, a drug that almost immediately reverses the effects of narcotic overdose, the article states.

It added that Gov. Pat McCrory included $1 million in his budget for medication-assisted treatment.

Dawn Schatz“Be a man.” “Toughen up.” “You want something to cry about?”

What do all of these messages have in common? Ask any man (or teenage boy) and he will recognize these directives aimed at males, says NASW member Dawn Schatz, in her column for the Middletown Transcript in Delaware.

“These damaging messages create a reluctance for men to admit when they are struggling and directly stand in the way of their willingness to seek help, trying instead to hide their emotions, stuff them (you know, ‘suck it up’) or numb them through substances or other destructive behaviors,” she writes in her latest column.

Schatz is an LCSW, certified domestic violence specialist, and owner of Appoquinimink Counseling Services LLC.

She says social worker Brené Brown, renowned author, public speaker and respected research professor, has touted that vulnerability is not weakness, but, in fact, it’s courage.

“For men, what would it mean ‘to take off the mask,’ to stop pretending ‘I have it all figured out, to just be myself?’” Schatz wrote. “Some are already doing it. For others, it would mean rejecting the harmful stereotypes and considering a new message about what it means to ‘be a man’ – be real.”

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