NASW Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill 2024

Jul 9, 2024

 

By Rachel Boyer, MSW, LMSW

Ahead of the 2024 NASW National Conference, more than 200 social workers from 36 states and one U.S. Territory attended 172 meetings with Congressional offices in both the U.S. House and Senate on June 18, 2024. The purpose of these meetings was to build bipartisan support for key legislation that will expand access to care and assist the social work workforce.

“NASW members offer a critical and unique perspective of their community to their representatives in Congress,” says NASW’s Public Policy and Advocacy Manager Dina Kastner, MSS, MLSP.  “NASW’s Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill is a chance for social workers to play a crucial role in developing policy by sharing their experiences directly with decision-makers.”

The day began with a briefing to participants on NASW’s priority legislation including a state of play of top-level issues facing each branch of government. Following this presentation, participants met up with individuals from their home states on Capitol Hill. A few members were able to meet for a group photo before hustling off to their first meetings of the day.

“Public policy impacts every aspect of our and our clients’ lives,” exclaimed Dr. Allison Berkowitz. “I was grateful to be part of the Alabama constituency who met with five of our members of Congress to share stories, facts, and statistics to demonstrate how passing our legislative priorities would help social workers and our clients.”

Some participants were able to meet directly with their elected lawmakers and share the importance of supporting legislation that prioritizes social workers and their clients.

Dr. Gwen Bouie-Haynes with staff in Sen. Hyde Smith’s (R-MS) office

Dr. Gwen Bouie-Haynes with staff in Sen. Hyde Smith’s (R-MS) office

“Given the limited mental health resources in many rural communities, I believe Advocacy Day was a critical moment to promote the needs of social workers in these areas,” said Dr. Gwen Bouie-Haynes, LMSW, Executive Director of NASW’s Alabama and Mississippi Chapters. “Our social work profession thrives when we can make a bigger difference in effective policy changes in all communities.”

Participants were on Capitol Hill throughout the full day for meetings and were able to explore the complex between their appointments.

 

Maryland Delegation with Rep. Raskin (D-MD)

Maryland Delegation with Rep. Raskin (D-MD)

“Advocacy Day was a valuable opportunity to connect with our Minnesota congressional staff. They listened well and many whole-heartedly agreed to support our asks, with several of the visits evolving into conversations about additional social justice issues. Connections were made and relationships built,” stated Beth Winterfeldt, MSW, LGSW. “For me, meeting with the congressional staff helped demystify the advocacy process at the federal level, and I now feel more empowered to continue this advocacy year-round.”

“Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill gave social workers the opportunity to meet with policymakers to gain support on several mental health bills. The experience was a reminder of the power of social work, and the importance of getting involved.” Dr. Jaqueline Wade, LCSW.

Dr. Barrett Bonella with Sen. Risch’s (R-ID) office

Dr. Barrett Bonella with Sen. Risch’s (R-ID) office

The Advocacy Day meetings resulted in new cosponsors on each of the targeted bills:

Improving Access to Mental Health Act (H.R. 1638)

  • Grace F. Napolitano (CA-31)
  • Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02)
  • Kweisi Mfume (MD-07)

Telemental Healthcare Access Act (S.3651/H.R. 3432)

  • Gary Peters (MI)
  • Jamie Raskin (MD-08)
  • Valarie Foushee (NC-04)

Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act (H.R. 4933)

  • Deborah Ross (NC-02)
  • Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02)
  • Dean Phillips (MN-03)

NASW policy staff are now following-up with offices, based on feedback from meetings, to secure additional co-sponsors.

“We appreciate everyone who participated in Advocacy Day 2024 on the Hill and encourage social workers to continue to advocate throughout the year,” says NASW’s Director of Public Policy Sarah Butts, MSW. “We must be persistent if we want to advance priority legislation that supports social workers and the clients and communities that we serve”.

You can advocate for support for these bills and others, by responding to NASW’s action alerts, here: https://www.socialworkers.org/Advocacy/Legislative-Alerts.

Rachel Boyer, MSW, LMSW is NASW’s Public Policy Associate.

A portion of the Texas delegation in front of the Capitol

A portion of the Texas delegation in front of the Capitol

Members from Illinois before their meetings

Members from Illinois before their meetings

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