January 15, 2016

Renewal and Growth in 2016

Dear NASW Member,

Happy New Year! On behalf of NASW, we want to wish you (and yours) the very best for 2016. The beginning of a new year often brings renewal and growth, so we hope the months ahead give you many opportunities to achieve your most valued personal and professional goals.

Through the collective commitment of 130,000 extraordinary professionals, NASW continues to make the well-being of individuals and families, and the advancement of social workers, its guiding purpose and mission. Thanks to your membership support, we are able to plan for exciting new possibilities in 2016. Your commitment to the profession and support of the Association are greatly appreciated.

Social work is never easy, but its intrinsic rewards are vast. At both the national and chapter levels, NASW seeks to help make your tough job safer and your career more rewarding. As we look toward fresh inspiration and new solutions this year, we want to reflect on a few 2015 accomplishments made possible by our membership and leadership and the work of our volunteer leaders and staff.

Standing Up for Social Justice

The remarkable endeavor of social work is set against a backdrop of serious world and national crises that directly motivate and challenge our profession to take on indispensable leadership roles. Persistent social, racial, and economic inequality, increased competition for funding, and growing mental health needs strain our resources. Across the country social workers are consistent voices of courage in our schools, in our communities and in our most powerful institutions. Consequently, NASW’s 2015 public statements on racial injustice, migrant support, marriage equality, gun violence and social worker safety all garnered widespread attention. The revised NASW Standards and Indicators for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice also reaffirmed the profession’s commitment to an inclusive society, and provide new tools to help social workers advocate for increased respect and understanding of all people.

Positioning NASW for Sustainable Impact

To ensure the long-term viability of the Association, the National NASW Board voted in June 2015 to modernize and revitalize NASW’s administrative operations. Since the fall, 15 teams have begun developing protocols to help chapter and national staff reduce administrative redundancies while enhancing program value for members. Hundreds of details will be decided between now and July 2016 to accomplish the first set of NASW’s modernization goals, including full integration of national and chapter staff, alignment of information management and financial accounting systems, consistent branding and customer service, and governance improvements.

Enhancing News and Information

In addition to providing monthly updates about social work advocacy and practice trends through the NASW News, chapter newsletters, monthly emails and its social media channels, NASW began offering a daily electronic news brief that summarizes important research and policy developments affecting the profession. This free Social Work SmartBrief already has more than 25,000 subscribers and is supported by advertising income rather than dues. We reach more than 96,000 followers on NASW Facebook, 63,000 on NASW LinkedIn, 30,000 on NASW Twitter and have annual website traffic of three million people. These online tools provide cost effective channels to reach broader audiences and further engage employers and other stakeholders in our organization’s work.

Mobile Access to NASW Publications

In December 2015, the NASW Press launched a much-anticipated digital publication service, making the organization's most important resources available as interactive downloads. The new NASW eBook platform makes it possible for students and faculty to explore the Association's public policy statements in an online format and gives practitioners mobile access to NASW’s best-selling case studies and clinical guides. The platform launch included 25 titles. Additional NASW Press resources will be offered in digital form throughout the coming year.

Ensuring Mental Health Access

The Affordable Care Act survived a critical challenge in the Supreme Court in June 2015. By reaffirming the importance of health care services and mental health treatment for previously uninsured Americans, the ACA also recognizes the growing need for well-trained providers. To help improve mental health services among older adults, NASW collaborated with U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Barbara Mikulski (MI) and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (CA)—all social workers—to introduce the Improving Access to Mental Health Services Act (S.2173 and H.R. 3712) in October. By raising reimbursement rates for clinical social workers in skilled nursing facilities, thousands more vulnerable adults will have access to needed psychosocial services. NASW is working with the Clinical Social Work Association, Council on Social Work Education, and other social work organizations to create widespread support for the bill. Securing bipartisan support in Congress is essential. You can help by writing your legislators.

Leadership Training

The NASW Foundation was successful receiving several grants in 2015 to improve social work leadership capacity in aging, healthcare and HIV/AIDS. The Social Work HEALS (Health Care Education and Leadership Scholars) Project is a joint effort between NASW and CSWE funded by the New York Community Trust to prepare the next generation of social work leaders in health care by providing scholarships, fellowships and other educational supports for 40 BSW, MSW and doctoral students. A $1 million John A. Hartford Foundation grant supports a new Supervisory Leaders in Aging Program, which will establish sustainable gerontology social work supervision training programs in four NASW chapters (New York City, Maryland, Illinois and Florida) and an ongoing practice excellence network among its graduates. The NASW HIV/AIDS Spectrum Training Project with SAMHSA is also in its 19th year of funding.

Professional Development

NASW expanded its career development offerings last year with the introduction of a free Virtual Career Fair in May 2015. More than 1,400 job seekers and 22 employers participated. Due to overwhelming response from participants, a follow-up fair is set for February 9, 2016. In addition to the national-sponsored virtual career fair and chapter-based job search assistance, hundreds of members participated in special webinars to improve their job hunting skills. Based on feedback from a 2015 survey of more than 11,000 social workers and employers, the Association will expand its career development and continuing education offerings in 2016.

60th Anniversary Celebration

NASW celebrated its 1955 founding last year with commemorative publications, historic video projects, special events and public recognition of the social work profession in state legislatures, Congress and the White House. (Read the letter from President Obama in the February 2016 NASW News.) An October 2015 event in Washington D.C. concluded the 60th anniversary celebration with the induction of 19 new NASW Social Work Pioneers®, recognition of the 55th anniversary of the NASW Code of Ethics, and a forum convening more than 100 social work leaders to plan future collaboration on several major initiatives over the next five years. Those efforts include the Social Work Grand Challenges Initiative, anti-racism work, evidence-based practice standards, NASW Code of Ethics revisions, and advocacy for the Improving Access to Mental Health Services Act.

Chapter Advocacy for Social Work

NASW Chapters are the face and voice of the Association in every community. Chapter leaders (staff and volunteers) are the bridge to more than 550 schools of social work, private and public employers, allied professions, and nonprofit coalitions, as well as thousands of local and state policymakers. Chapter advocacy also increases community support for the social work profession. For example, NASW’s chapters were key to these efforts:

  • * CONNECTICUT: Teachers, administrators and parents in Avon stood up to retain school social work jobs in their community.
  • * TEXAS: Protests against deep cuts in Medicaid rehabilitation therapy rates helped policymakers rethink their initial funding proposal.
  • * OREGON: Legislation now prohibits conversion therapy for youth under 18 years old.
  • * MASSACHUSETTS: A new bill requires licensed social workers to have degrees from accredited schools.
  • * PENNSYLVANIA: A new voluntary license for BSWs improves public protection.
  • * WISCONSIN: The use of body cameras by social workers was protested as a violation of the NASW Code of Ethics.
  • * UTAH: A new title protection law requires individuals who are called social workers to meet the profession’s standards of education, training and ethics.
  • * NEW YORK CITY: Advice provided on a major film about homelessness helped shape discussions about how to better serve this vulnerable population.

What more to expect in 2016?

In addition to continuing work on the initiatives described in this letter, we also look forward to honoring Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving woman in Congress and a proud NASW member, as she retires from the U.S. Senate at the end of the year. In June 2016, the NASW National Conference will gather more than 2,000 members for a showcase of social work innovation and leadership in the areas of ethics, evidence and equity. Early registration opens this month. And the 2016 election season promises to be an equally exhilarating and challenging exercise in democracy—with high stakes for social workers and our most vulnerable clients.

Although brief, we hope this summary provides useful context about NASW’s future direction and programming commitments. Your involvement and support of chapter conferences, networking events and resource development efforts are critical to ensuring the strength of our Association, and we look forward to serving you in new collaborative ways throughout the year.

Thank you for helping to improve the life journey for millions, and for challenging injustice wherever it reduces human potential. We, like you, are proud to be part of a profession that makes a real difference for so many.

Best wishes in 2016!

Darrell P. Wheeler, PhD, ACSW, MPH
President, Email: president@naswdc.org

Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW
CEO, Email: naswceo@naswdc.org

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