Social Work in Action (October 2014)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott passed legislation in June that establishes a preference for hiring social workers as child protective investigators.

According to the bill (SB 1666), the Florida Institute for Child Welfare — comprising the state’s public and private university schools of social work — will advise the state on child welfare policy, social work education and child welfare worker training.

“(It’s) such vindication to all the hard work NASW-Florida put in to get SB 1666 passed into law,” said NASW-Florida Legislative Chairman David Brown. “Great moment for us, our members, and most importantly the families who for years to come will receive support and engagement from professionally trained social workers.”

A tuition-exemption and loan-forgiveness program to attract social workers to work in child welfare is included in the bill. Under this provision, child welfare personnel with a social work degree can receive up to $3,000 per year to pay student loans.

The bill sets a goal for half of all Department of Children and Families investigators to be social workers by 2019.

Other qualified workers may be hired, but under the legislation the department is directed to provide them with specialized training within a specified amount of time on the job.

Legislation has passed in Connecticut stating that licensed mental health clinicians in private practice — including LCSWs — will be added to the Medicaid program. NASW’s Connecticut Chapter Executive Director Steve Karp said the Connecticut Department of Social Services implemented the practice on July 1.

“The Affordable Care Act significantly increased the number of adults on Medicaid at a time when there were waiting lists for the existing adult Medicaid population,” Karp said. “So when the psychologists introduced a bill to include them in Medicaid for adults, we had the bill amended to include LCSWs.”

The chapter conducted a survey of private practitioners who saw adult clients. The findings estimated that at least two-thirds of LCSWs in private practice are willing to accept clients enrolled in Medicaid.

“NASW-Connecticut has worked on and off since the mid-1990s to get LCSWs in private practice covered to see the adult Medicaid population,” Karp said. “The new law is dramatically increasing access to mental health care throughout Connecticut.”

NASW Social Work Pioneer® Samira K. Beckwith, president and CEO of Hope HealthCare Services, participated in a U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging panel in May.

The panel focused on the role of health care providers in advance care planning and how the private sector and government can be more responsive to individuals and families facing advanced illness.

“Our health care system is excellent at managing acute episodic illness or injury, but there is great need to establish appropriate care systems for the number of aging boomers with advanced progressing illness,” Beckwith told the committee. “Hospice benefits need to be more accessible for individuals as they experience significant physical, emotional, spiritual and financial burdens and become eligible for hospice care.”

Beckwith urged the committee to examine various administrative and regulatory burdens that present obstacles to individuals and families who need end-of-life care. She also stressed the psychosocial aspects of care and the social work role within the interdisciplinary teams.

The National Quality Forum included NASW’s input in its final report, “Finding Common Ground for Healthcare Priorities: Families of Measures for Assessing Affordability, Population Health, and Person- and Family-Centered Care.”

Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of the NASW Foundation’s Social Work Policy Institute, is a member of the NQF Measure Applications Partnership Person- and Family-Centered Care Task Force. She and Chris Herman, NASW senior practice associate, represented the association at task force meetings.

The final report identifies families of measures —sets of related available measures and measure gaps that span programs, care settings, levels of analysis, and populations-related to three National Quality Strategy priorities: Affordability, Person- and Family-Centered Care, and Population Health.

NASW noted that person- and family-centered care, a hallmark of social work practice, starts where the client is and builds on client strengths in the context of the biopsychosocial environment.

Social worker Iris Freeman provided input on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s June 2014 guide, “Protecting Residents from Financial Exploitation: A Manual for Assisting Living and Nursing Facilities."

The guide helps assisted-living and nursing-facility staff better serve residents by preventing and addressing scams and other types of financial exploitation.

NASW provided input on the Leadership Council of Aging Organization’s Advanced Care, Hospice and End-of-Life Principles document. (PDF)

The principles note that older adults living with advanced illness or nearing the end of life need and deserve person- and family-centered care that is well-coordinated and honors their dignity, values and health care choices at each stage of their illness.

Older adults and family caregivers must have access to the full range of high-quality interdisciplinary care, including social work services, the document says.

Participants from major mental health provider organizations in July discussed the importance of researching the impact of recent policy changes related to the Affordable Care Act and mental health.

Attendees at the National Institute of Mental Health meeting heard from Harold A. Pincus, who spoke about the importance of quality measurements for psychosocial treatments.

Pincus is a professor and vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University and co-chairman of the Institute of Medicine’s Developing Evidence-Based Standards for Psychosocial Interventions for Mental Disorders (co-sponsored by NASW).

Joan Zlotnik, director of the NASW Foundation’s Social Work Policy Institute, represented NASW at the meeting.

The NASW Massachusetts Chapter and the NASW national office issued a statement in June that expressed disappointment in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around health clinics offering abortion services.

The high court stated that establishing these zones infringes on the First Amendment rights of pro-life protestors.

NASW and its Massachusetts chapter were among more than 30 organizations that filed an amicus brief with the court seeking to continue the original Massachusetts law.

In the statement, the chapter said it is concerned the high court’s ruling could negatively affect both women’s rights and patient safety. It stated that NASW-Massachusetts supports women’s choice and is committed to “unimpeded access to services to all,” including health care and family planning services.

The chapter urged the Massachusetts legislature to work expeditiously to determine legal restrictions that will ensure the safety and privacy of patients visiting these clinics, while also protecting the right to free speech.

NASW participated in the Acute Care for Older Persons Priority Setting Partnership, a project led by the Society for Hospital Medicine with support by the Association of Specialty Professors and the John A. Hartford Foundation. The goal of the project was to identify research priorities related to hospital-based care for older adults.

NASW was one of 18 stakeholder organizations participating in the project, and NASW members participated on an invitational basis. Each participant had the opportunity to submit an unlimited number of research questions, which were narrowed down to a final 10.

Selection of the final questions was reached using a two-step process involving online voting by each organization and an in-person meeting, held last October.

NASW Senior Practice Associate Chris Herman represented NASW at the meeting, and NASW Senior Practice Associate Stacy Collins and NASW Social Work Policy Institute Director Joan Levy Zlotnik also provided input during the voting phase.

The questions address topics such as advance care planning, care transitions, delirium, dementia and training. SHM released a summary report that includes the 10 research questions and describes the partnership process.