Social Work in the Public Eye (November 2013)

Jennifer FinnStupid Cancer is a nonprofit organization that helps empower and educate young adults who have been diagnosed with the disease, and also guides them to live their lives to the fullest.

NASW member Jennifer Finn has been working to promote Stupid Cancer in Billings, Mont., and she is the Montana state representative for the Association of Oncology Social Work.

“We work with so many young adults and their families, but it is always heartbreaking to receive referrals for patients who are still raising young families,” said Finn, a Billings Clinic social worker. “I can’t help but hug my children a little tighter when I get home.”

Finn was quoted in an article on that tells the story of Jennifer Owen, whose husband passed away at age 31 from esophageal cancer. Owen says Stupid Cancer helped her find closure.

“For me, it was an incredibly validating opportunity,” Owen said. “To be able to talk about what I had seen, what I had been through and to reach out to other caregivers and other people battling cancer and say you’re not in this alone. There is, in fact, a whole national network of people who get it and who want to fight this fight with you.”

People ages 18 to 40 had the opportunity to take a part in a one-day Stupid Cancer boot camp in July, hosted by the Billings Clinic.

“We’re hoping that by bringing stupid cancer to Billings, that more of our young adults will come and want to get together and talk about the issues that they’re facing,” Finn said in the article.

The community event was open to the public, and directed at adults under age 40 who face a cancer diagnosis.

Ana DlouhyNASW member Ana Dlouhy, a bilingual registered play therapist, works with children at Child Advocates of Fort Bend County, a nonprofit organization in Texas that advocates on behalf of abused and neglected children.

Dlouhy, a graduate of the Houston Graduate College of Social Work, was featured in September in an article in the Houston Chronicle. Child Advocates staff members like Dlouhy are integral to the success of the organization’s mission to help children heal, the article says.

“CAFB represents a place of healing and hope for the children and their families in our community,” Dlouhy said. “It is an honor to be a part of the CAFB team and to work with the children who have suffered abuse, helping them to process their traumatic experience.”

The article says CAFB provides a wide range of mental health services for children up to age 18, including play, individual, family and group therapy. Dlouhy says she works mainly with the Hispanic population to provide mental health services to the children and their families of Fort Bend who had suffered from sexual (or) physical abuse, or have been (witnesses) of violent crime.

Sherry SaturnoNew York’s Daily Voice featured NASW member Sherry Saturno in September, after she was awarded a Social Work Leadership in Palliative and End of Life Care Fellowship at New York University.

During her fellowship, Saturno will research health-care solutions and services for the elderly and chronically ill through 2015, the article says.

“I was motivated to research end-of-life care and chronic illness from having worked in nursing homes,” Saturno said. “Speaking with and learning from the residents there on a daily basis was a remarkable experience. I saw the absolute best in people — family members, residents, nurses, and physicians. These residents were living with dying, and yet so many of them were full of life, humor, and good will. They were inspirational and I would like to share their stories to help others in similar situations.”

Saturno, who is a Tarrytown, N.Y., resident and the New York program director for Beacon Health Strategies, says in the article that she is passionate about helping the elderly have a better quality of life.

She says many chronically ill seniors find getting out of bed and climbing down the stairs impossible, and the lack of medical insurance or gaps in coverage make home care difficult to afford.

She recommends a planning method for older individuals called advance directives, which are detailed instructions letting family members know the type of care the individual wants to receive in the event of becoming chronically ill or dying. Advance directives include a health care proxy, a living will, and do not resuscitate (DNR) documentation.

“Families may struggle with how to best approach end of life planning,” she says in the article. “It is a difficult conversation, but the best time to plan is while you are still healthy. This way you are taking control of your own medical treatment, and the planning will respect your own values. Your family and those closest to you will have comfort in that they are honoring your wishes. There is no right or wrong plan, only what is right for you.”

The article notes that NASW named Saturno the Social Worker of the Year for the state of New York in 2012.

Steven ProcopioNASW member Steven Procopio, a licensed independent clinical social worker and faculty adviser at the Boston University School of Social Work, helps male victims of childhood abuse, including a focus on HIV and homelessness. He recently wrote an article for the CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery called “Exploited boys are too often failed.”

The article tells the story of a 15-year-old boy named Brian, whose name was changed to protect his identity. Procopio writes that he met with Brian, who had a family history of domestic violence and drug abuse. Brian learned about “Skype sex,” and used it to sell his body in an attempt to earn money and leave his abusive home.

Procopio says the boy fell victim to the seedy industry that is the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), and was eventually reported to the Department of Children and Families in the U.S. after he was kicked out of his home.

Brian’s parents kicked him out when they found out about his online activities, because they assumed he was gay and they did not approve, Procopio says.

He tells the story of Brian to highlight the fact that treatment options are most often targeted toward female survivors of CSEC, because it is assumed it only happens to girls. But, he adds, 50 percent of CSEC are male. There is a sense of shame and stigma about being gay or being perceived as gay by family that keeps boys from self-identifying as sexually exploited, he says, and there is reluctance to discuss the exploitation of this group, which ultimately causes male victims to be underserved.

Procopio states that first and foremost the issue needs to be acknowledged, and the stigmas, assumptions and stereotypes need to change in order for programs to be developed and funded by government and nonprofits.

Sydney RoweAn article about suicide prevention by the Buffalo Bulletin in Wyoming quotes licensed clinical social worker Sydney Rowe, who lives in Buffalo and serves on the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Johnson County.

Rowe, who works for Northern Wyoming Mental Health, says in the article that she didn’t initially want to get involved with suicide prevention but changed her mind after two of her friends took their own lives. “It just kind of kept stalking me until I got involved,” she said.

The article mentions National Suicide Prevention Week, which was recognized Sept. 8-14, and says the Suicide Prevention Coalition hoped to bring attention to the issue in Johnson County and Wyoming.

Rowe says Johnson County, like most of the state, has all of the ingredients for a high suicide rate. It is a rural, somewhat isolated community, where not everyone may have good access to mental health care, which, along with the so-called “cowboy up” attitude of toughness, leads many people to not discuss or seek help for their problems, she says.

“The ‘cowboy up’ attitude is beneficial in many ways, but it’s not beneficial if you need help,” Rowe says.

Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death in Wyoming and the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., the article says.

The Suicide Prevention Coalition reminds residents of Buffalo and Johnson County that there are resources available locally for people struggling with suicidal thoughts and urges.

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