Arizona House of Representatives continues to hold up Social Work Compact Bill

Jun 6, 2024

By NASW Arizona Chapter Executive Director Brandie Reiner, MSW

This week, the Arizona State Legislature once again failed to advance lifesaving mental health legislation.

Social workers across our country work tirelessly to combat the ever-growing mental health crisis facing our nation. The Social Work Licensure Compact, spearheaded by the Department of Defense, seeks to address the critically important issue of licensure mobility for military spouses and enhances access to critical mental health services nationwide. In Arizona, we are fighting for our right to licensure mobility with SB 1036: social work compact. Despite the demonstrated need, SB 1036 continues to be held hostage in the Arizona State House of Representatives and may not become a reality for our profession or those we serve.

The statistics are striking. Despite data showing that there are 708,000 social workers nationwide, there is only 1 social worker for every 184 Arizonans. With such a large gap and high load on our profession, we must advocate for increased access to services and licensure portability. The Social Work Licensure Compact directly addresses this disparity by enabling social workers to reach underserved and geographically isolated areas, including military service members, veterans, and their loved ones. Key provisions of the bill encompass a wide range of benefits, including support for relocating military spouses and families, improved access to professional social work services, enhanced public safety, and continuity of care. Moreover, by streamlining regulatory processes and reducing administrative barriers, the compact ensures a more responsive and competitive workforce long term.

In our testimony of SB 1036, Retired Sergeant Daniel Brown, who tragically lost a friend and fellow veteran to suicide, shared openly with lawmakers just how these barriers keep some veterans from accessing lifesaving mental health services:

“I want you to imagine a young airman getting out of the air force here at Luke Air Force Base. He has been receiving care for PTSD and he wants to go home to his home state. Without SB 1036, he would have to stop his care and start over. I can tell you they don’t start over. My friend didn’t.” 

Download and watch Dan Brown Testimony

Also, in support of SB 1036, Angela Boswell, a licensed social worker and military spouse in Arizona, courageously shared her family’s very personal journey in trying to obtain mental health services despite laws and regulations that kept her family from healing:

“My husband, a retired 20-year Infantry Marine, bravely served our country, but the toll on his mental health, particularly PTSD, has been profound. Tragically, navigating the maze of interstate licensure laws meant that when he needed care the most, we were met with barriers rather than support. The story of countless military spouses facing similar struggles echoes loudly in my ears. SB1036 offers a beacon of hope by facilitating licensure mobility for social workers like myself, ensuring uninterrupted access to vital mental health services for our veterans and their families.”

Terri Waibel, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of Arizona’s Center for Compassion, added to these stories and shared the heart wrenching experience of being prevented from supporting a family whose child died in another state:

Throughout their weeks of time out of state, they were forced to attempt to emotionally cope on their own without familiar and trusted professional therapeutic support.

Just three examples, these strong voices represent hundreds of thousands of others who have fared just as bad, if not worse. Individuals seeking help and being denied access due to unnecessary and cumbersome barriers are struggling and some not surviving.

The need is apparent, and the clients are waiting. Given that recent similar compact legislation passed for Licensed Professional Counselors (SB 1173) it would be highly unprecedented for our lawmakers to prioritize one mental health profession over another.  Joining us in this fight are our colleagues in 18 other states who have passed this legislation without issue. Those states include: Missouri, South Dakota, Washington, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Utah, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Virginia, Vermont, Connecticut, and Kansas.

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we take decisive action to support our military, Arizona communities and the dedicated professionals who serve them! We call upon our elected officials and urge them to stop playing political games with lifesaving legislation and swiftly pass SB 1036!

To Dan, Terri, Angela, the military community, and our social work professionals, we thank you for your continued service. We vow to never stop advocating for you! We will now, and always have your six.

 

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