Strategies Propel Other SWRI Goals

NASW staff is working on different strategies to promote the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative (SWRI), with long-term reinvestments in the social work academic and professional communities as well as immediate legislative support.

By the end of March, nearly 17,000 people had contacted their representatives in Congress to urge support of the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr., Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 5447).

But the effort does not end there. NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark recently sent letters to members to explain that while the reinvestment act is the primary initiative at the federal level, the association is equally committed to advocating on behalf of the immediate demands of the nation's social workers.

Part of that goal is asking members to contact their representatives or senators in Congress to support NASW appropriations requests while lawmakers debate appropriations funding for the health and human services, education and labor departments for fiscal year 2009.

Becky Myers, special assistant to the executive director, said the association is examining where parts of the Social Work Reinvestment Act can be combined with other legislation in order to move the effort forward.

"This means some members will be asked by NASW to write to their members of Congress on other matters related to SWRI," Myers said. "We'll be looking at getting some of our SWRI language included in legislation that is moving in Congress. We want to let members know that we appreciate their support, but some of them will be asked to help the SWRI in a variety of ways."

In her recent letter, Clark noted that members' voices are an invaluable tool to affect federal policy and to ensure that the needs of the social work community are met.

"While NASW has outlined a number of priorities within the fiscal year 2009 appropriations legislation, the immediate investment in a Social Work Reinvestment Commission is of primary significance," Clark stated.

"You're representative and/or senator's support is a vital component with broader efforts to ensure that the Social Work Reinvestment Commission is created and fully funded with the coming fiscal year," Clark added.

Following is the proposed legislative language to create such a commission:

"Social Work Reinvestment Commission — Congress recognizes the growing demand for a well-trained social work workforce to meet the most pressing needs facing our nation, such as veterans returning from combat zones with mental health crises, children suffering from abuse being permanently placed in safe homes, elders maintaining their independence in community settings and ex-offenders reentering their communities with the tools necessary to succeed. The 600,000 social workers in the United States are the professionals who respond to these vulnerable populations. Concerned about workforce shortages and insufficient support for professional training, Congress directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a Social Work Reinvestment Commission to provide a comprehensive analysis of workforce trends and current gaps in incentives to recruit and retain professional social workers and to expand knowledge of evidence-based practices. There shall be 11 members of the Commission. Members of the Commission shall be appointed in consultation with the Committee. At least eight shall have experience in the field of social work. The Commission will report to Congress on long-term recommendations and strategies to maximize the ability of America's social workers to serve their clients with expertise and care. The Commission will report to Congress within 18 months of being established."