Social Work in Action (February 2012)

Children’s mental health symposium

Social workers participated in the 27th Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy, held in October 2011. The theme focused on building services for children who experience trauma through exposure to domestic violence and become involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Attention also was given to trauma-informed services, which were highlighted by the many components of the SAMHSA-funded National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Conference participants included Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of the NASW Foundation’s Social Work Policy Institute, who presented a poster on the NASW Shift Project for Suicide Prevention with Adolescent Girls. The poster showcased the toolkit, which offers a step-by-step, online resource for practitioners to make the transition to evidence-based programs in their practice, agency or community.

“There was a lot of interest in our efforts,” Zlotnik said.

Presenters highlighted the urgency to improve interventions, programs and systems that help children avoid trauma.

“It was stressed we need to prevent trauma in the first place,” Zlotnik said.

Social worker Patricia Wilcox, vice president of Strategic Development at Klingberg Family Centers in New Britain, Conn., informed attendees about the ways Klingberg promotes excellence in trauma-informed services for those who treat clients with histories of psychological trauma and attachment disruptions.

“My most overwhelming impression (of the symposium) was that so many people in so many widely differing areas of the helping professions are transforming how they provide services based on our increasing knowledge about trauma,” Wilcox said. “It may turn out that research about trauma, its effects and how healing takes place will be the revolution of our century.”

Integrated health care conference

NASW Senior Practice Associate Stacy Collins joined a panel presentation on work force development in collaborative and integrated care across the health professions at the 13th Annual Collaborative Family Healthcare Association conference in October. Collins’ presentation focused on work force issues related to social work in integrated health care settings, a new model defined as a comprehensive and cost-effective approach to health care delivery that combines medical and behavioral health services to address the spectrum of concerns that patients bring to the primary health care setting.

“Social work is a core component of interdisciplinary primary care,” Collins said.

Numerous job opportunities exist for social workers within the new model, which was heavily promoted in the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Integrated health systems offer many potential opportunities for both clinical and medical social workers, including specialty mental health, behavioral health, care coordination/case management and patient education and wellness coaching.

Collins said it is vital that social work students learn the skills that are embraced in the integrated approach. To work in these settings, social workers may need enhanced training on brief intervention, motivational interviewing, substance use/addiction treatment and interdisciplinary care, as well as a deeper understanding of primary care medical conditions.

“This is the wave of the future,” Collins said.

In other conference news, Collins attended the 46TH annual Society for Social Work Leaders in Health Care conference in October. The Society is a sister social work organization. Collins said she networked with society members and exchanged information on topics of mutual concern, including the implications of health care reform for hospital social work practice.