Members showcase social work at its best

Darrell Wheeler, Ph.D., MPH, ACSW

In my last column, I wrote that social workers should be working across political and ideological differences to shore up services and produce outcomes for our clients, and to advance the social work profession.

Two months later, I remain wholly committed to this position.

In recent weeks, opportunities for social workers to highlight their strengths and demonstrate our profession’s added value in key areas of human rights, social justice and health care have been plentiful.

Some of our colleagues on the forefront of these issues are showcased in this issue while others have been featured in mainstream media outlets.

Shane’a Thomas was interviewed for an hourlong Slate Working podcast exploring her therapy work with LGBTQ young people at Whitman-Walker Health in D.C.

She spoke about her intervention process, but also about what she is hearing from vulnerable youth who are unsure of their rights and life opportunities.

Bruce Buchanan wrote directly to Iowa residents in the Des Moines Register about the social work profession’s efforts to retain licensure protection for all mental health professionals.

The NASW Iowa Chapter is challenging the Iowa governor to save this critical legislation.

Sam Hickman in West Virginia acknowledged essential bipartisan work on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Act. As opioid addiction devastates countless communities, Hickman asked lawmakers in his state and others to rethink their actions to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

We should thank these NASW members for showing the public how resourceful, competent and impactful social workers are individually and collectively.

I also want to thank each one of you for staying the course and making your contributions available to the many client systems that benefit from our work.

Thank you for leading and, when necessary, challenging oppositional forces that would deprive individuals or groups of their rights or limit access to needed services and resources. The work you do makes me exceptionally proud to serve you.

Social workers in large cities and small towns have embraced the need to develop adaptive and transformative ways of approaching our difficult work.

As I engage with colleagues across the country, particularly student members, I have become even more excited about the future for social workers.

Our newest colleagues consistently emphasize their ability to achieve social justice, equality and equity in their lifetimes.

The energy linking the desire for individual change to the need for redressing social ills is palpable.

For example, health care is a critically important area of advocacy right now.

National Academies Study

It is still a bit early to say too much about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine proposal for a consensus study on Integrating Social Needs Care into the Delivery of Health Care to Improve the Nation’s Health.

Nevertheless, the report could highlight the critical role of social work and social workers in achieving health care outcomes and improving delivery mechanisms.

NASEM reports identify issues, illuminate probable solutions and showcase practices that advance well-being in many areas. NASW participates on the planning committee and will help seek independent funders.

If you have ideas, please send them.

Health Care Bill

NASW has also joined AMA, AARP and several other large organizations in denouncing the recently introduced health care “reform” bill.

If lawmakers wish to produce legislation that truly advances the well-being of patients, improves systems that serve them, and has the potential to reduce costs (through prevention, intervention, care or treatment), they should consult social workers as part of a broad-based multidisciplinary body.

Our expertise about systems of care in complex real-world environments is a critical part of this national conversation.

As we transform ourselves individually, collectively and professionally, we are not leaving behind the lessons of our founding mothers and fathers, but rather building on them in a constantly changing context.

This is social work at its best.

Contact Darrell Wheeler at