Letters to the Editor (March 2013)

More focus needed on mental health services

There has been much talk of restricting availability of assault style weapons and some talk of changing mental health services reporting requirements, but I have not heard any discussion of the challenges in the field of mental health services and the diminishment of these services.

In Michigan, funding and services have been drastically cut, many psychiatric facilities closed to the point that only very limited services are available in some areas. And the services available continue to be diminished by increased pressure to provide services to more people with less cost. Individual practitioners are under pressure to fill more roles and complete more documentation or paperwork, much of which seems to be orientated towards covering possible liability of agencies or funders such as community mental health rather than quality of services.

Therapists’ time and energy is increasingly distracted by case management and administrative and other functions outside their area of training. The priority too often is the appearance of the documentation and filling requirements of the state or funder and not providing good mental health services, not providing services that assist and heal people, services that keep people safe.

This too must be addressed if we are to address the issue of violence in this country.

Cheryl Des Montaignes, MSW, LCSW, LMSW
Grass Lake, Mich.

Sensitivity to military social work overdue

It is welcome news that NASW is committed to Standards for Practice with military, their families and veterans and a professional credential for social workers who provide services to these groups.

During the Vietnam War, many professional social workers, myself included, worked with the military and their families through such programs as USO, Red Cross and Special Services. Along with working with people, we raised money through United Way, served on community boards in the name of our agencies and tried to understand how to effectively serve returning or rotating servicemen who were suffering from as yet unnamed PTSD.

Some of us returned from our tours in Vietnam also suffering from PTSD, and some of us lost our careers because of our symptoms.

So you can imagine how unnerving it was to read in NASW News (circa 1980) an article describing these professional social workers as “Donut Dollies.” When I protested to NASW that describing us as pretty faces and sweet smiles was a disservice to our profession, I was admonished that it was the “vernacular of the times.”

I have not forgotten what my professional organization thought of my hard work during those tumultuous times, when bright, professional social workers were asked to put aside their personal beliefs and do an incredibly hard job.

I do hope that, along with other lofty goals for NASW’s plan to more effectively work with military, veterans and families, there will also be a new and long overdue sensitivity to the social workers who continue to work in this field.

Susan R. Tonnar, ACSW, LICSW
Manchester, N.H.

Life coaching criticism challenges our mission

I had a strong reaction to Deborah Foster’s letter to the editor criticizing NASW’s apparent support for life coaching as a career path for social workers.

As a licensed clinical social worker and outpatient therapist (and clinical director) in a large group practice — and in the mental health field since obtaining my MSW in 1976 — I feel enabled/entitled to point out that her criticism absolutely flies in the face of the reality for many licensed social workers.

To suggest that social workers MUST work ONLY with those who are under-privileged or underserved, although perhaps true decades ago, simply is NOT the case now. To suggest that work with the ‘worried well’ is of much lower social value (or is perhaps prohibited by our Code of Ethics?) is fully disrespectful to the humanness of ALL people (and our social work mission). I do agree with your final sentence, though, that our salaries are too low … wonder why that is??

Art Miron, LCSW
Philadelphia, Penn.

Bill for children cannot protect the unborn

Once again I take my copy of NASW News (February 2013) out of my mailbox and read a truly encouraging front page article about another successful effort of NASW to protect the safety and well-being of children — this time seen in the passage of the “Protect Our Kids Act”; and I celebrate with those who worked so hard for it and the children/families who will benefit most from it.

Then I begin to grieve for all the children whom this bill CAN'T protect, because they aren’t even born yet. Their lives cannot only be ended legally, but with the support of the very same organization that grants front page banner headlines to a bill passed to help “end child abuse deaths.”

May God forgive us.

Dave Marty, ACSW
Rockville, Ind.