Social Work Leaders Attend NASW Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill

Jun 29, 2023

group of people stand with Capitol building in the background

By Dina L. Kastner, MSS, MLSP, Senior Field Organizer

Nearly 100 social workers from 44 states and two U.S. territories attended 143 meetings with Congressional offices in the U.S. House and Senate on June 28, 2023, to build bipartisan support for key federal legislation that will assist the social work workforce, our clients, and communities.

The Advocacy Day is part of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Association Leadership Meeting that is attended by social work leaders from across the country

“NASW’s Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill is an opportunity for social workers to share their knowledge, experience and expertise with Congressional lawmakers and their staff.  Our voices are critical as we try to advance policies that will expand access to mental and behavioral health services nationwide,” NASW Director of Public Policy Sarah Butts, MSW, said.

NASW Hawaii Chapter Executive Director Sonja Bigalke-Bannan (right) and Chapter President Francie Julien-Chinn visit Sen. Mazie Hirona (D-HI)

“Having social workers on Capitol Hill is crucial for the public policy work of NASW. Constituents matter in Congress. Social workers coming from across the country to advocate for our profession and our social justice priorities makes a real difference,” says Dina Kastner.

Participants were briefed about NASW’s priority legislation and greeted by NASW CEO Anthony Estreet, PhD, MBA, LCSW-C, who assumed his role on February 6.

“This is my first time as CEO of NASW to see the Advocacy Day in action. The work of our chapter leaders is essential in advancing NASW’s public policy priorities,” says Dr. Estreet.

“NASW Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill is a critical part of the work the NASW staff and leadership do on behalf of the members of NASW and the entire social work profession. In addition to having relationships with Congressional staff in the state districts, this day is an opportunity to meet with DC staff to advocate for higher reimbursement rates for clinical social workers,” says Valerie Arendt, MSW, MPP, executive director of the NASW North Carolina Chapter.

“NASW-NC Board President Rosalie Calarco and I were able to stop by and speak with 14 Congressional offices today. NASW membership matters as there is no other group advocating for all areas of our great profession.”

“At our NASW Capitol Hill Day, we found that every single legislative staff member, both Democrat and Republican, recognizes mental health and wellness as a priority issue.  We social workers need to develop relationships with our members of Congress to improve our ability to advocate for NASW’s legislative agenda, which will benefit our clients and our profession,” said Victor Manalo, PhD, MSW, president of the NASW California Chapter .

“We had three meetings with staff members of the Iowa congressional delegation. Iowa has a severe mental health professional workforce shortage, and all of the staff we spoke with seemed to understand the need to increase the number of and access to social workers for Iowans,” said Denise Rathman, MSW, executive director the NASW Iowa Chapter. 

“They were particularly aware of the importance of telehealth for clients and social workers. It was a great opportunity to build relationships with DC policy makers.”

Participants urged support on the following bills.

The Improving Access to Mental Health Act (S. 838/H.R. 1638)

Lead Sponsors

  • Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Barrasso (R-WY) and
  • Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01)


» Increase Medicare Reimbursement Rates for clinical social workers (CSWs) from 75 percent to 85 percent of the Physician Fee Schedule.

» Increase Access to Clinical Social Work (CSW) Services for Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Residents by allowing CSWs to bill independently at SNFs.

» Provide Access to CSW Services that Help Medicare Beneficiaries Who are Coping with Physical Health Conditions by reimbursing CSWs for providing Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention (HBAI) services.

Ask: Cosponsor and support passage.


The School Social Workers Improving Student Success Act (H.R. 1415)

Lead Sponsors

  • Reps. Gwen Moore (D-WI-04) and
  • Barbara Lee (D-CA-12)


» Provide grants to elementary and secondary schools to hire and retain the minimum ratio of one school social worker for every 250 students and one school social worker for every 50 students for high need areas.

» Establish the National Technical Assistance Center for School Social Work, which would provide strategies on improving the effectiveness of school social work, identify areas of improvement for school social work programs, work with agencies on disseminating data on best practices, and establish school social work development programing.

Ask: In the Senate, seek an original sponsor. In the House: cosponsor and support passage.


The More Social Workers in Libraries Act (H.R. 3006)

Lead Sponsors:

Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX-29), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12), and Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-MI-03)


» Fund an internship for social work university students in a regional public library.

» Employ a qualified social worker in a regional public library to oversee social work student interns.

Ask: In the Senate: seek an original Senate sponsor. In the House: cosponsor and support passage.


The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act (S. 1452/H.R. 3073)

Lead Sponsors:

  • Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and
  • Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY-20) and
  • Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01)


» Establish a competitive grant program at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to create, operate, or expand community-based programs that use a public health approach to build mental wellness and resilience.

» Support community initiatives to build their own developmental and culturally appropriate strategies to enhance and sustain population level mental wellness and resilience, with specific attention to high-risk individuals.

Ask: Cosponsor and support passage.


NASW is sponsoring a July 20, 2023, Congressional briefing on the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act.

You can advocate for support for these bills and others, by responding to NASW’s action alerts.