Social Work in the Public Eye (October 2014)

Marcie DimensteinDepression sufferers need a strong support system to draw out hidden, raw feelings, says NASW Member Marcie Dimenstein, a licensed social worker at The Connection in Middletown, Conn.

Dimenstein is quoted in an article on News 8 that talks about Carlos, who is in rehab and lives at the Recovery House at The Connection, a nonprofit agency providing community-based services.

Carlos sought treatment after admitting to his substance abuse, addiction to opiates, and mental issues that he said turned him into another person.

Dimenstein says in the article that someone who is very depressed has the same lack of hormones as someone who has an addiction, “so they are both interchangeable.”

“[They need] to see their weaknesses and strengths,” she says, “so it takes a long time to stand up and say, ‘This is who I am, I am depressed. I’ve become depressed, I am an alcoholic, I am a drug addict.’”

Family and friends are critical to the recovery process, the article says, and the challenge can be lifelong.

Aaron HippThe plan to make St. Louis a more walkable, bike-friendly city has been in the works, according to a St. Louis Public Radio online article. NASW member Aaron Hipp, assistant professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis, has researched how built communities affect the activity and health of those who use them.

“I think overall we have great facilities in St. Louis and there has been a lot of improvement in the five years that I’ve lived here,” he says in the article.

However, while some parts of the city are walking friendly, he says consistency and connectivity is lacking and there is not the infrastructure in place to run in every park, or bike throughout the city.

“The city is very divided north and south, particularly in bicycling infrastructure,” Hipp said. “You can always do better, and where [the facilities] are and where the quality I would say is good, verses where things are not and the quality is not as good, is a big challenge for the community right now.”

According to Hipp, biking infrastructure can be costly, especially when figuring in the cost of equipment, helmets, and risk of injury. But he says biking can open up the area.

“You can go farther on biking — biking to work, biking for errands, there’s a wider range of places you can go … so it opens the area up more.”

Abria BonnerNASW member Abria Bonner is set to change lives in New York, according to an article in Valdosta Today, the publication serving the alumni community of Valdosta State University in Georgia.

Bonner was offered a job at The Doe Fund in Harlem and moved to New York just days after graduating with a master’s degree in social work from VSU.

Bonner serves 21 clients at The Doe Fund, a nonprofit organization that seeks to break the cycle of homelessness, addiction and recidivism.

“Our program strives to aid clients by mainstreaming them back into their communities through supportive individual and group counseling,” she says in the article. “Right now, I am … developing a curriculum for a psychoeducational group on developing healthy coping skills. I am super excited.”

Bonner provides her clients with a variety of services, including counseling, helping them secure money for rent, finding access to benefits they may qualify for, and learning approaches to help manage their substance-abuse issues.

She says moving to New York has been a life-changing experience.

“Living in New York has been a dream of mine for the past year,” she said. “Every night I would visualize myself where I am now.”

Social media is seen as a two-edged sword for law enforcement, according to an article on It can be used as a tool for police to gather information, but also as a force behind youth violence that can lead to fatal events.

Desmond PattonNASW member Desmond Patton, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, studies the online behavior of young people who are affiliated with gangs, and he has written a piece called “Internet Banging: New Trends in Social Media, Gang Violence, Masculinity and Hip Hop.”

He defines “Internet banging” as young people using social media sites or chat rooms to broadcast their gang affiliation, brag about a recent fight or murder, and communicate threats.

According to the article, Patton’s studies mainly took place in large cities like Chicago, but he says Internet banging can happen in smaller towns as well.

“At the end of the day, when there are under-resourced communities, there is always a chance for this behavior to arise,” he said.

He added that social media can provide a platform for arguments to escalate quickly, and young people see social media as a way to promote themselves and their gangs. “Adolescents are interested in popularity and being known,” Patton said. “They see social media as a way to become popular and gain notoriety. You were the one who posted the fight? That’s cool. You were the one who won the fight? That’s cool.”

Some young people living in impoverished areas don’t expect to live past 25, he said, so they embrace risky behaviors on the street and online.

“There is a code of the street. If you mess with me, you need to know I’m not afraid of you,” Patton said. “They don’t want to be known as punks.”

Noël Busch-ArmendarizNASW member Noël Busch-Armendariz provided expertise to the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, which released its first-ever report, “Not Alone,” in April. According to an article on, the White House made the message clear that colleges aren’t doing enough to combat sexual assault on campuses, and dozens may be out of compliance with federal law.

“When we have non-stranger sexual assault, things get thornier for law enforcement to figure out. That was the big impetus for the White House to bring us into the conversation,” said Busch-Armendariz — associate dean for research at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work.

She also directs the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the university. The group published a toolkit last year to help police talk to adult victims of non-stranger sexual assault.

“We really need to help law enforcement shift from investigations that looks at a focus of victim behavior that looks at a focus of offender behavior,” she said.