Political Activism: A Civic and Ethical Responsibility

The recent anniversary of our country’s independence reminds us that as Americans we have certain duties that we owe to our country.  Most particularly, citizens have a responsibility to be involved in the political process through voting and can participate in various other forms of activism, such as campaigning, contacting Members of Congress, and joining political organizations.

Social workers have an additional professional responsibility to engage in political activism that stems from the NASW Code of Ethics, which calls for social workers to advocate and challenge social injustice.  This requires social workers to not only engage in civic political activities, like voting, but also in advocating for marginalized persons and other similar actions.

Social workers in the United States have a dual responsibility to engage in political activities, and the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative (SWRI) provides several opportunities for social workers to advocate for their profession and their clients, including the Social Work Reinvestment Act and the Congressional Social Work Caucus.  The Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (HR 1106/S. 584) is designed to address challenges in the social work workforce, including low pay, high educational debt, and low retention rates, to ensure that millions across the nation continue to receive competent care.  The Congressional Social Work Caucus (CSWC) consists of social worker Members of Congress and those who support the social work profession and society’s social safety net and creates a platform on Capitol Hill to represent the interests of social workers throughout the United States.

To fulfill your ethical duties as a professional social worker, consider contacting your Representative and Senators today and encourage them to join the CSWC or to co-sponsor the Social Work Reinvestment Act.

One comment

  1. From my standpoint, being a social worker in Joplin,we are in a psychological crisis. Therefore, it baffles me that despite the urgency of this situation we are referring people to Springfield for emotional/counseling services. Considering the people affected by the tornado lost everything they own, it is inhumane to expect them to seek services that far away. Many people do not even have a place to live at this point, much less a car to drive or even money to get what they need to survive. The COBRA law, which is for every hospital, states that people should receive immediate medical (psychological) attention at the nearest facility for stabilization. If their needs are greater than the current facility can provide in this area, then the facility has an obligation to transfer the patient to another facility that is better able to care for their needs. We seem to be doing just the opposite, from what I can tell.

    I also do not understand how Ozark Center believes business can proceed as usual…we are entering into uncharted territory, they are going to require as much assistance as all of the local providers can give. When thousands of people are feeling the impact and hundreds of businesses demolished…not to mention a major hospital was destroyed, things are not going to be the same for a very long time. We simply cannot operate under the pre-existing conditions. Drastic changes need to occur immediately. Perhaps those changes will be on a temporary basis, therefore evaluate it later. It is quite likely that this type of situation has never been necessary, as no one could anticipate the gravity of the May 22, 2011 tornado. It damage had been well beyond what most encounter.

    Another issue that behooves me is bringing in counselors from outside agencies…it is on Ozark Center’s website and information they publish that they are partnering with Burrell Center from Springfield and Pathways. This again is fine, if the “triage” has determined that level of need. However, just last night a number of counselors indicated they are accepting new clients in the Joplin area. It is perplexing to me that people still must go outside this community according to Ozark Center. It is my understanding, as verified by the Red Cross during training, that Ozark Center did indeed receive a 2 million dollar grant to provide emotional support for anyone affected by the tornado. It is also my understanding that individuals will receive five counseling sessions through the allocation of this grant money. There are emails from the Vice President of Ozark Center indicating they are planning to build a new Trauma Center for Children

    Many providers, me included, do not understand why we are NOT utilizing local well-qualified individuals for their expertise. Instead, OC. hires 20 “new people”. These new employees are good people, so please do not misunderstand my concern…but they certainly will be lacking in training, education, experience and the wisdom that comes along with many of these seasoned counselors. What a huge misfortune and mismanagement of resources this appears to be. It is logical as well as essential to require credentials and training for each provider…but this data is easily accessible by using CAQH. It seems having people complete and 11-page application, sign up with the Red Cross and with Burrell…then still not hear anything 5 weeks later after jumping through those hoops is a monumental waste of time, money and resources

    .

    Another concern is building a trauma center during the trauma. Would we build a surgery center during a surgery? No, we must stabilize the patient first, and then look at alternative options during the recovery. We must stay focused on the task, which is getting people the necessary services for immediate needs. Any assistance is welcome.
    Which is certainly a potential need down the road? However, the immediate needs require our full attention first; later on, the need can be re-evaluated to determine the need at that time.

    Apparently because “this is how business has always been conducted before”
    This is how they are expecting to continue doing business despite the enormity of this disaster. I do not totally understand how the Department of Mental Health determines who receives funding and/or grants…but what I do know is that it is completely impossible for Ozark Center to provide these services alone…OC was behind before the tornado hit…it is not feasible that they can fulfill all of the needs this community will require.

    This money apparently is in addition to the money they received for the long-term emotional support. It is difficult for one to digest how all of this can be transpiring right under our nose. How is it that the Department of Mental Health continues sending me emails advising that Ozark Center has things under control…when I know for certain they were behind before the tornado hit. Someone seems gravely misinformed or unaware of the reality of the situation.

    We are at the beginning of a psychological crisis we must first get people through the crisis period, after stabilization occurs then we can make an informed decision about what is necessary. At this time it is not a good idea to make any major decisions…we are still not thinking logically and clearly due to the impact this situation has bestowed upon us. Ozark Center is not exempt from this trauma or the emotions that follow…they lost a number of buildings, and a number of their employees felt the impact of the tornado, as did many.

    My hope and vision is for the entire four-state area to work together as a team. No one entity will be able to provide every need for every person…it will take our entire community working together.

    That is why I created an online facebook group of individuals to help facilitate “Post Tornado Stress Support” groups all over the four state areas (as needed). Those individuals needing additional services can refer to a listing of qualified individuals. With this type of psychological emergency it could do much more harm to the both the untrained staff and the survivors by placing ill equipped people in positions they are not trained to handle. Here is a synopsis of what Crisis Counselors/debriefing group is:
    This is a group of counselors is willing to offer services (paid is nice, but many are willing and able to volunteer), we also have some doctors, attorneys, public administrator(s), and people from our community. The idea is to set up Post “Tornado” Stress/Support groups at various locations. The initial shock is wearing off and people are transitioning from “survival mode” into the next phase. We have a number of groups set up already, but are open to new groups at new locations as well. Now that people are getting their basic needs met, they will be more prepared and willing/able to deal with any emotional or psychological issues that may arise. We need to be ready when the survivors and volunteers are ready to share. I am very glad to be a part of such wonderful people sharing a common goal…to help others. I am open to suggestions (negative comments preferably via my inbox or email…but feel free to share them on this page as well. If you do not wish to be a part of this group, you may remove yourself, or ask any of the administrators or myself to remove you. I hope that everyone decides to remain in the group, but we can only help others if we stay united.
    Please let me know if there are other people that would like to join, here are some professions included in CC:
    Attorneys
    Doctors
    Counselors
    Two registered play therapists
    Nurses
    Nurse practitioners
    Nursing home administrators/staff
    School officials
    Church leaders/members
    Department of Health and Senior Service officials
    Employees of various community mental health centers
    Public administrator(s)
    Sincerely,

    Cindy Lungstrum, MSW, LCSW, LSCSW

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