Social Work in the Public Eye: August / September 2021

Prisons and the Pandemic

Algeria Wilson

Prisons were hit hard by the pandemic.

In Michigan, for example, more than 25,000 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 130 prisoners died from the virus.

Algeria Wilson, MSW, director of public policy for the NASW Michigan Chapter, noted many correctional facilities haven’t allowed social workers to meet with prisoners in person since the pandemic began.

“Social workers in prisons still have to do the mental health and substance use disorder duties, but with COVID it makes the job difficult because they can’t see prisoners on a daily basis so they can’t fully assess the needs in person,” Wilson said in a story posted at the Spartan News Room, a news source supported by Michigan State University’s School of Journalism.

Overcrowded prisons mean social workers have more inmates to monitor.“With social workers being limited to how often they can go into the prisons, they have limited capacity to provide relief for inmates,” Wilson said. “Caseloads are higher and it’s difficult to be able to assist from afar.”

Teens and Anxiety

Carmen Holley

As people slowly return to their pre-pandemic routines, anxiety for pre-teens and teens is expected.

NASW member Carmen Holley, LCSW, was quoted in a Chicago Daily Herald story about the best ways for families to handle these changes. It's natural for a teenager to experience a range of moods and emotions throughout the day, she explained.

It's important to stay involved and communicate with your teen, said Holley, an LCSW and mental health consultant for Lurie Children's Center for Childhood Resilience.

“Mood swings are typical during this phase of life and are generally not an area of great concern,” she told the newspaper. “However, if the mood changes seem more severe and long-lasting, this might be a sign the child may need additional support.”

Side Effects of Alcohol Consumption

Robin Barnett

Alcohol use accounts for about 6 percent of all cancers and 4 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Your pancreas and liver, areas of your body constantly taxed by alcohol, are the most at risk for developing cancer,” says Robin Barnett, EdD, LCSW, and author of “Addict in the House.”

Barnett, an NASW member, was quoted in a story at Eat This, Not That about the side effects of alcohol consumption.“If the liver is overworking, trying to get rid of the alcohol, then it slows down the rest of your metabolism and immune system because it is focusing on getting this alcohol toxin out of your body,” she said.

If the body is in a state of stress, it makes it more vulnerable to developing illnesses like cancer. If you do not drink, you may lower your risk of developing these types of cancers as compared with someone who consumes alcohol regularly, the story says.

Back to the Classroom

Priscila Norris

Preparing kids to go back to the classroom full-time will likely be a challenging transition.

“Children are very routine-oriented. It helps them feel safe, and it helps them know what to expect,” said NASW member Priscila Norris, LCSW, owner of Thrive Mind Counseling and Wellness. “Acknowledge there’s been a change, there’s been a huge shift, and sometimes saying ‘I don’t know what to expect’ is okay, too,” Norris says in a story, based in Greenville, N.C.

Conversation is needed early, Norris suggested. “We should avoid asking things like ‘Are you scared to go back to school?’ or ‘Are you feeling anxious about this?’ These are pointed questions, and they lead the child. But if you ask, ‘How do you feel about going to school?’... those open-ended questions help start a dialogue.”

To read other media stories like these, visit

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