News from the Hill – November 2009

Nov 18, 2009

House Passes Health Care Reform Legislation

In an historic vote, the House passed major health care reform legislation on November 7, with a vote of 220-215. NASW supported the health care reform bill (H.R. 3962), which included a Medicare provision allowing clinical social workers to bill independently for serving certain nursing home residents. However, we were greatly disappointed in the passage of the Stupak/Pitts Amendment to limit comprehensive reproductive health services for women.  A copy of NASW’s endorsement letter highlighting provisions of concern to social workers is linked here.

The Senate version of health care reform legislation will be debated on the floor beginning this week extending until mid-to-late December, but the bill language had not yet been released.  The Senate floor process is much different than the House, which approved its version with only hours of debate. NASW expects several hundred amendments will be considered during the Senate’s weeks of debate, necessitating that we prioritize our advocacy activity and messages.  We continuously update you on our health reform advocacy blog located here. Please check here often for the latest developments and learn what NASW is asking you to do, regarding this important issue.

Hate Crimes Legislation Signed by President Obama

The National Association of Social Workers has steadfastly been involved with hate crimes legislation for over a decade.  On October 22, 2009, NASW’S efforts assisted with the passage, by the Senate, of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by a 68-29 vote.  The hate crimes initiative was included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Department of Defense Authorization Report passed previously by the House of Representatives.  President Obama signed the legislation on October 28, 2009. The historic enactment of hate crimes legislation represents a victory for social justice advocates and all Americans.

NASW Co-Sponsors Student Policy Practice Forum

On October 29, 2009, NASW co-sponsored a forum for social work students about policy practice. Three hundred students came to Capitol Hill to learn from social workers in policy practice. Keynote speeches by Representative Ed Towns (NY-10) and Dr. Dorothy I. Height were highlights of the day. A health care panel also helped students learn first-hand what is going on with health care reform. Several students participated in lobby visits and talked about their experiences with the group. In the afternoon there was a reception with social work hill staffers and the students.

NASW Signs on to ENHANCED Act Support Letter

NASW has signed on to a letter to support the Establishing a Network of Health-Advancing National Centers of Excellence for Depression (ENHANCED) Act of 2009, S. 1857.  This legislation is sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI), who is a social worker. It establishes national centers of excellence for the treatment of depressive and bipolar disorders.

The legislation expands depression centers of excellence with the goal of increasing access to the most appropriate and evidence-based depression care, and developing and disseminating evidence-based treatment standards to improve accurate and timely diagnosis of depression and bipolar disorders. Additionally, the ENHANCED Act will create a national database for large-sample effectiveness studies and create a repository of evidence-based interventions and programs for depression and bipolar disorders, as well as utilize the network of centers as an ongoing national resource for public and professional education and training, with the goal of advancing knowledge and eradicating stigma of these mental disorders.

NASW Submits Testimony on CAPTA

On November 5, 2009, NASW submitted testimony in collaboration with the National Child Abuse Coalition, Washington, D.C., to the Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities, Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives, regarding the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Congress has not yet introduced any legislation in the House or the Senate to reauthorize CAPTA. It is believed that a bill may not emerge until next session, as health care continues to dominate the legislative agenda.

The National Child Abuse Coalition, representing a collaboration of national organizations committed to strengthening the federal response to the protection of children and the prevention of child abuse and neglect, called on Congress to reauthorize the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) programs to provide the core federal policy and support for:

  • strengthening the child protective services (CPS) infrastructure;
  • promoting community-based services to prevent child maltreatment; and
  • initiating research and development of innovative programs to advance the field of prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.

Testimony highlighted key findings from NASW’s workforce report, Assuring the Sufficiency of a Frontline Workforce: A National Study of Licensed Social Workers. The study warns of an impending shortage of social workers that threatens future services for all Americans, especially the most vulnerable among us, children and older adults.

The testimony can be found here.

Stressful Jobs With Low Pay

Executive Director Betsy Clark is asking all NASW members to contact their members of Congress and show their full support for the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 795/ S.686). This is the first piece of federal legislation ever introduced that will directly address the workforce challenges that our profession is facing. These challenges, such as low salaries, high educational debt, and serious safety concerns are making it difficult to assist the 10 million clients that social workers across the country serve each day. Take a moment to view this CNNmoney.com study, which rates social work at the top of the list of stressful jobs that pay badly. Rep. Towns recently discussed this study in a “Dear Colleague” he sent to his fellow members of Congress asking for their support for H.R. 795.

Dr. Clark also asks members to thank social workers, Representative Towns and Senator Mikulski, for introducing this legislation and for their consistent dedication and leadership of the social work profession.  You can print this postcard and mail it to Senator Mikulski and Representative Towns or you can send them a quick thank you email. It’s important to remember and thank our social work advocates in Congress!

Find out more about the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act.

Race to the Top Grant Opportunities

The Department of Education recently released guidelines for states to apply for the $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” grants that aim to improve educational outcomes for children. Education experts contend that this is the largest pot of funds to states with so few restrictions ever granted by an education secretary. Although states are eligible to apply, they will receive priority when partnering with community groups such as those in child welfare, juvenile justice, and criminal justice agencies. States must apply for the first round of grants by January 19, 2010. Prior to the application submission, they must send detailed plans to Secretary Duncan so we encourage you to contact your governor or department of education to find out how you can become involved in the planning process.

For more information go to http://www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html

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