Towns hands reins to Lee

Congresswoman also reintroduces the Social Work Reinvestment Act

NASW hosted an event on Capitol Hill to mark the relaunch of the Congressional Social Work Caucus in the 113th Congress as Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., takes over as chairwoman of the caucus.

Former caucus chairman and former Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns, D-N.Y., officially handed the caucus key to Lee during the event.

Towns, who retired at the end of the 112th Congress, created the caucus two years ago.

“(Ed) has always been a proud social worker and we felt so lucky to work with him all these years,” said NASW CEO Elizabeth J. Clark.

As a social worker, Towns led the CSWC as one of the few congressional caucuses that support the profession. The caucus represents more than 650,000 social workers across the U.S., spreading awareness about the profession and the current issues social workers and clients face. This is done through Capitol Hill events and briefings as well as outreach and education for Hill staff and the media.

“This caucus was designed to begin to share information with others,” Towns said. “That’s the way we get information out. We still have a lot of work to do and we still will continue to do it.”

Towns asked Lee to lead the caucus upon his retirement. Lee, also a social worker, said the time has come for social workers to step up.

“I don’t know any group of professionals better equipped with the heart and head to do this,” she said. “I am so proud to take over the reins from my colleague Rep. Towns. … I am passionate about the contribution that social workers make every day to society, and the critical role they play in promoting and maintaining the essential elements of the American social safety net.”

Elizabeth J. Clark, Ed Towns, and Barbara LeeFrom left, NASW CEO Elizabeth J. Clark, former U.S. Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., pose for a photo during a recent Capitol Hill event to mark the relaunch of the Congressional Social Work Caucus.

There are seven social workers out of the 435 members in the U.S. House of Representatives, Lee said, adding that she sees this as a step in the right direction. Among the issues Lee plans to address as a congresswoman and head of the CSWC are a ban on assault weapons, defending Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and working to provide children in need with access to mental health treatment.

“I’m proud to be here,” she said. “We’re growing and going in the right direction.”

Lee reintroduced the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act on April 10. The bill, H.R. 1466, was reintroduced in time for the NASW advocacy day, where NASW chapter leaders and national board members went to Capitol Hill to support the bill and the caucus.

Lee said she was pleased to reintroduce the legislation in the 113th Congress.

“I believe that the Social Work Reinvestment Act will be able to fund, train, educate and expand the professional ability for our nation’s 650,000 social workers,” she said. “The act will strengthen communities and provide the necessary assistance to help ensure that millions of individuals and families throughout the nation continue to receive well-rounded care.”

NASW supports the CSWC in its efforts to advocate for the social work profession. The CSWC is a congressionally approved bipartisan group of members of Congress and is dedicated to maintaining and strengthening social work services in the United States.