In the Public Eye: February / March 2023

Four NASW members are quoted in media stories about veteran homelessness, the mental health crisis, Medicaid expansion, and behavioral health initiatives in Boston.

Josephine Coleman-Williams, LCSW

A nonprofit in Liberty County, Ga., is helping local veterans experiencing homelessness by creating a tiny-home community in Midway, Ga.

According to an article at WTOC, a lot in Midway will soon be a place for many veterans who need a home, say leaders with BuddyWatch Inc., which aims to help veterans near Fort Stewart.

“When we say to our soldiers, ‘Thank you for your service,’ that’s not enough,” says NASW Georgia Chapter member Josephine Coleman-Williams, LCSW, with BuddyWatch. “We can do better by serving them. We serve them by providing them places to live and opportunities to grow.”

Coleman-Williams says she also plans to offer her counseling services to tenants on-site once the homes are built.

“I have been in the business of mental health care for over 20 years. In that capacity, I’ve worked with a lot of veterans,” she says. “One of the things I think that helps veterans heal is to get outside of their own heads and help other veterans.”

Jenna Wolfson, LCSW

Anxiety and depression have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic, leading to a mental health crisis that has been worsened by the shortage of mental health counselors.

The Washington Post asked mental health professionals what advice they would give people who are struggling to find a therapist.

NASW California Chapter member Jenna Wolfson, LCSW, says in the story to keep in mind that group practices may be able to fit you in sooner than solo practitioners. When all else fails, you may be able to ask your health insurance provider for appointment assistance. 

“Tell them you’re not able to find providers, and have them do the work for you,” Wolfson says.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and cannot leave work, she suggests speaking to your human resources department about using the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees.

Terry Werner

South Dakota has joined more than three dozen other states to expand Medicaid. Voters in the state who supported the 2022 ballot initiative to expand Medicaid say it goes beyond standard care and will help in such areas as mental health, according to a Public News Service article.

Leading up to the vote, ballot supporters said the expansion would help uninsured South Dakotans receive preventive care and reduce chronic illness.

The story quotes Terry Werner, executive director of the NASW South Dakota and Nebraska chapters. He said the expansion also can help social workers who provide therapy in clinical settings. 

“I think there’s a lot of clinical social workers who end up doing work and not being reimbursed for it,” Werner said. “That’s an important aspect of it.”

Werner said South Dakota has many gaps in mental health services, and while there have been efforts to improve those services in places like schools and prisons, there is still a lot of work to do.

Rebekah Gewirtz

Rebekah Gewirtz, executive director of the NASW Massachusetts Chapter, was quoted in a January 1 story on the front page of the Boston Globe about new behavioral health initiatives in the state.

Massachusetts residents seeking mental health care will now be able to call or text the Behavioral Health Help Line (833-773-BHHL) or walk into one of 25 designated centers. The opening of the Help Line is the first big step in outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s ambitious plan to overhaul the state’s fragmented, understaffed system for people with mental illness or addiction, according to the Boston Globe story.

In addition to the Help Line, the “Roadmap for Behavioral Health Care Reform” establishes mobile teams ready to respond immediately to those in crisis and calls upon 25 Community Behavioral Health Centers to provide swift and flexible care in every city and town across Massachusetts.

The hope is that fewer people will flock to hospital emergency departments, where they now spend days or weeks waiting for help. 

“This road map is a game-changer,” Gewirtz says in the article. “It’s truly transformative for our state.”

cover of February / March 2023 issue

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