About three-quarters of social workers work with older adults in a wide variety of settings. Yet, only about one out of ten of social workers specializes in aging.
Social work practitioners and students can obtain training in aging through the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP). GWEP is authorized under Titles VII and VIII of the Public Health Service Act and is administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). It is the only federal program that develops a health care workforce that maximizes engagement of older adults and family caregivers while improving health outcomes.
Urge your senators and representative to increase GWEP funding in fiscal year 2018. Here’s an easy-to-use form to to contact them.
HRSA is currently funding 44 GWEP sites in 29 states. In the 2015-2016 academic year, GWEP sites provided 1,650 different continuing education courses to approximately 94,000 health care professionals and students of various disciplines, including social work. However, funding for GWEP is in jeopardy. In mid-July the House Appropriations Committee voted to reduce GWEP funding in fiscal year 2018 by $4 million-a 10 percent cut for a program that is already quite modest. Such a cut would result in fewer GWEP sites and would exacerbate current shortages in the eldercare workforce.
As a member of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance and the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, NASW is advocating to restore and increase the GWEP funding level to $51 million for fiscal year 2018. This funding level would support up to eight new GWEP sites, thereby spreading the program to additional underserved and rural communities. Increased funding would also enable reestablishment of the Geriatric Academic Career Awards (GACA) program, which supports the development of academic clinical educators specializing in geriatrics. Professionals eligible for GACA include clinical social workers.
A bipartisan solution to this situation is possible; Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, has indicated a willingness to increase GWEP funding. Letters from social workers can make the difference in boosting GWEP funding.