Social Work in the Public Eye (September 2013)

Stephen GorinStephen Gorin, executive director of NASW’s New Hampshire Chapter, wrote a column for the Concord Monitor criticizing the New Hampshire Senate for deciding it needed another 18 months to study Medicaid expansion in the state, even though the New Hampshire House of Representative’s had included expansion of Medicaid eligibility in its proposed state budget.

Gorin wrote that further study is not needed, and the delay in expansion will put the health of low-income residents at risk. It will also continue to cost more for businesses and families with private health insurance, he said, because they will be picking up the tab for those who can’t afford to pay for their treatment.

The column references a study conducted by a consulting firm, the Lewin Group, which the state’s Department of Health and Human Services commissioned in 2012 to evaluate the effect of Medicaid expansion on New Hampshire’s Medicaid program, health care system and economy.

The study says expanding Medicaid could provide health insurance to 58,000 New Hampshire residents who can’t afford to buy it or work for companies that don’t offer it. “These people are already in our health care system,” Gorin wrote. “When they seek treatment they can’t pay for, they receive it, causing our businesses and families with private insurance to pick up the cost.”

Gorin also cited a 2013 study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This report says that up to 2,300 uninsured veterans and their spouses in New Hampshire will have incomes low enough to qualify for health coverage through Medicaid. In addition to the financial aspect of Medicaid expansion, there is the health and well-being of New Hampshire’s low-income, uninsured residents to consider, he wrote, referencing another recent study of three states that had already expanded Medicaid to low-income adults.

The result in those states was a decrease in death among adults 35 to 64 over a five-year period.

“New Hampshire needs to expand Medicaid coverage now,” Gorin said. “Appointing a commission to study this issue is unnecessary and will put the health of low-income residents at risk and drive costs for New Hampshire businesses and families with private health insurance higher. Unfortunately, the legislature decided otherwise.”

Larry DavisA summit hosted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work brought together leaders from more than 30 research centers to discuss issues related to the federal budget sequestration cuts and to talk about future solutions, according to an article in the New Pittsburgh Courier.

The summit took place at the University of Pittsburgh Center on Race and Social Problems, where NASW member Larry Davis, dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, had an opportunity to address attendees.

“This is a great collection of centers, I’ve been really impressed with what these centers are doing,” Davis said. “Some centers are just focused on research but 60 percent of these centers have had an impact on their universities and the community. A lot of the time, people think we’re only focused on academic research, but a lot of these centers are actually impacting the community and the diversity of their institutions.”

The article says that the two-day summit served as a place for center leaders to find solutions to common issues, but also to share their research. Areas of focus included the internalization of racial stereotypes, reducing the wealth gap, and education disparities. According to the article, the National Institutes of Health will see funding for medical research reduced from $5.6 billion to $4.77 billion as a result of the federal budget cuts. Similarly, it says, federal funding for the National Science Foundation is being reduced by $586 million.

A type of postpartum depression can affect new fathers, according to an article in the Pottstown, Pa., newspaper, The Mercury. The article highlights “Frank,” a first-time dad who discovered he had paternal postpartum depression when he began not feeling like himself while staying home with his newborn daughter.

Jennifer KoganNASW member Jennifer Kogan, an independent licensed clinical social worker in Washington, D.C., says in the article that this initial reaction isn’t surprising. “There’s sleep deprivation and a lot more to do,” Kogan says. “That’s when people start to have problems.” The article refers to a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that says roughly one in 10 fathers suffers from paternal PPD.

The symptoms of PPD don’t necessarily present in the stereotypical ways associated with postpartum depression — which can include sadness, crying or feelings of worthlessness — but can appear as a feeling of detachment.

Fathers experiencing PPD can contact their primary care physician for help and go to Postpartum Support International for more information.

Jessica Hallman-HoltonNASW’s North Carolina Chapter President Jessica Hallman-Holton was interviewed for a news report on WITN-NBC in Greenville, N.C., following the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act.

The court struck down the act, ruling it unconstitutional. Hallman-Holton was among a group of gay-marriage supporters gathered outside the Pitt County Courthouse in Greenville after the ruling was announced.

“I think it’s certainly a step in the right direction,” she said. “Certain states have further to go obviously … for change, change takes time. Everyone is going to have their different goals of what they are going to work on. I’m a clinical social worker by trade so I know the social work profession, we’ll work towards lobbying, we’ll work towards that equality and helping diverse communities and diverse populations with moving forward.” According to the news segment, the Supreme Court ruling will not change the law in North Carolina, but it could pave the way for the North Carolina Gay Marriage Ban (Amendment One) to be overturned in the state.

According to an article on, the Saint Peter’s Healthcare System in Brunswick, N.J., in cooperation with the Rutgers University School of Social Work, is conducting a study to explore ways to help families adjust to the news that their son or daughter is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Michael LaSalaNASW member Michael LaSala, a licensed clinical social worker and a professor at the Rutgers University School of Social Work, is leading the study. LaSala says research has shown that strong parental relationships can enhance LGBT youth resilience, insulate them from mental and substance-abuse problems, and reduce HIV risk.

“As a gay man, family therapist and family member, I have always been amazed by the depth and power of family relationships — and social scientists know that good family relationships can protect members from the ravages of mental illness, drug addiction, and can discourage unsafe sexual behavior,” LaSala says in the article. “That is why I am proud to join with Saint Peter’s and Rutgers University for this innovative project to strengthen families by helping them adjust to, accept, and even cherish their LGBT children.”

The article says the Saint Peter’s Family Health Center will offer professional counseling to LGBT youth and their families as a part of the study and the emerging program called New Brunswick Family Solutions.

The program is confidential and free. As many as 20 families will be invited to participate, and they will receive family therapy sessions conducted by a licensed social worker.

Major depression is a serious public health problem among older adults in the United States, and new research suggests it affects ethnic groups differently, according to an article on Fox 47 News, the Fox affiliate in East Lansing, Mich.

Amanda Toler WoodwardThe article focuses on the findings of NASW member Amanda Toler Woodward, who is the lead investigator on the research study that examined rates of major depression among three ethnic groups — whites, African-Americans and black Caribbeans.

A survey of nearly 2,000 people aged 50 and older shows that whites and blacks of Caribbean descent experience much higher rates of major depression than do African-Americans.

The data show that African-Americans and black Caribbeans aren’t as similar as one may think, Woodward says, so they shouldn’t be lumped together when thinking about diagnoses and treatment.

Woodward, associate professor of social work at Michigan State University, says in the article that elderly people in general often have other health and mental issues that make it difficult to diagnose and treat major depression. In addition, there is a dearth of clinicians trained in geriatric mental health.

“It is clear that major depression is a significant public health issue among older people,” says Woodward, whose study appears in the research journal “Anxiety and Depression.”

Co-investigators for the study include Robert Taylor, Jamie Abelson and Niki Matusko from the University of Michigan.