Social Work in the Public Eye (October 2013)

Mark GaynorLiving next to animal hoarders can be a source of frustration for neighbors who have to deal with the smells, noise and disruption that comes from having too many pets in an enclosed space.

According to an article on the blog Gothamist, animal hoarding is inhumane for the pets and can cause unlivable conditions for the owners. This is what a married couple in Queens, N.Y., discovered after they issued several formal complaints to their city board about their animal hoarding neighbors, who had six dogs and “many cats,” and actively practiced animal rescue.

NASW member Mark Gaynor, who specializes in animal hoarding issues, was interviewed for the article about animal hoarding. He has been a consultant to the Animal Planet program “Confessions: Animal Hoarding.”

He says in the Gothamist article that the disorder often presents itself as a secondary mental health issue. Someone might come to his practice with work-related or relationship conflicts and only after careful assessment does he find out about the animal hoarding.

“A client’s physical presentation — or her odor — is often what tips things off,” Gaynor said.

There are certain characteristics that most animal hoarders share, he said.

“The majority are single women over the age of 60 who have had a series of traumas in their lives,” Gaynor said. “They are not able to make healthy relationships with the world around them and probably had some earlier life experiences in which they were highly rewarded by animals. Animals are soothing to them.”

Animal hoarders might suffer from anxiety, depression, attachment disorder, delusions, OCD, or a combination of all five, he said. It is not uncommon that they are pathological liars who lack the moral reasoning to take responsibility and to realize that what they are doing is cruel.

Unfortunately, he says, there is a lack of available research on the topic.

Mark SmithNASW member Mark Smith has been elected leader of the Iowa House Democratic Caucus, according to an article in The Gazette, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Smith is director of special projects at the Substance Abuse Treatment Unit of Central Iowa.

As a social worker, Smith has worked with troubled children and their families, treated substance abuse, directed services to the mentally ill, and made sure nursing homes provide quality care for the elderly, the article says.

Smith was among the first to provide early mental health counseling to children through the schools, it says, and he’s called on to train substance abuse counselors and social workers.

Smith says in the article that he likes to look at all the available research as he considers legislation.

“I like to understand the issues, look at all aspects of legislation, what moves the state forward and what I see as problematic,” he said.

Smith says his priority will be to “put forth the message of what we as Democrats stand for and the kinds of things we’re working for to build a strong middle class.”

He expects to work with majority Republicans on areas of agreement “and voice the concerns we have when we don’t.”

Another priority will be to regain the majority in the House, he said — a goal he called “within reach.”

The article says Smith is a seventh-term member of the Iowa House, and he succeeds Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines, who resigned to take a position in the Iowa attorney general’s office.

Linda RichardsSome people think of therapy sessions with a licensed clinical social worker as sitting in an office on a couch and talking to the therapist, says an online article on The Rolla Daily News. But horses and therapy can go hand in hand, it says.

NASW member Linda Richards founded Horses Healing Hearts LLC., an alternative therapy option in Rolla, Mo.

Richards, a licensed clinical social worker, says in the article she has always been a horse lover and has been familiar with the idea of equine therapy for some time.

At Horses Healing Hearts, clients engage with the horses in structured activities that all take place on the ground — no horseback riding is involved.

“We’re taking the traditional office therapy and putting it out in the arena,” she said.

“Most people associate this therapy with riding — like with physical therapy,” she explained. “But with this, it is all on the ground. No one is riding. They are completing structured, interactive activities with the horses.”

Richards opened the doors of Horses Healing Hearts last year, and says she has had several clients.

“We have had some referrals through the schools, and we have the word out to other organizations,” she said.

Pat FlingMore than 1,200 supporters of immigration reform gathered in Reno, Nev., in June for a public assembly, and some had pending immigration status that depended on the outcome of congressional consideration of the issue, according to a Reno Gazette-Journal online article.

One of the organizers of the assembly was NASW member Pat Fling, executive director of Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada.

“We invited our state senators and congressman to attend,” Fling says in the article. “Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., showed up, and we pointed out the two empty chairs where our congress people would have sat.”

In the article, Fling discusses efforts ACTIONN is putting forward for a citizenship reform law that is fair and keeps families together.

“Many of our residents are either undocumented themselves or have family members who are undocumented — every day they experience hardship because of that, including difficulty earning a living wage,” Fling says.

The DREAM Act, she says, has improved school attendance among undocumented young people, and they are able to go back to school and go on to higher education and better employment options, which is a plus.

“Nevada has experienced the highest unemployment rate since 2007 in the nation, and the highest high school drop-out rate,” Fling says. “ACTIONN has five campaigns around those two issues and we’re working on improving schools and creating jobs in Nevada.”

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