CSWE Full Circle March 2014

Volume 2014, Issue 3

CSWE Spring Governance Speakers Emphasize Value of Social Work

CSWE’s March 2014 Spring Governance Meeting program in Alexandria, VA, brought two dynamic guest speakers before CSWE commission members, council chairs, and board of directors to reinforce the national importance of the profession of social work. Ronald Dellums, former U.S. Representative from California, and Janet Heinrich, senior advisor for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), gave compelling presentations on the effects that social work can have on the war on poverty and on health care disparities.
 
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Ronald Dellums, who served 14 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1971–1998), addressed how welfare has been perceived recently as a negative word and urged social workers to reclaim and redefine it as a more positive and honorable term. He noted that politicians can be punitive when it comes to recognizing the social work profession; he then countered this sentiment by emphasizing that welfare is intended to motivate and assist people toward self-sufficiency and employment. Dellums encouraged his audience to lead the charge on bringing the human family together.
 
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Janet Heinrich outlined the work of CMS/CMMI in supporting the creation and testing of innovative health care payment and service delivery models and spoke about the importance of social work in reaching the agency’s goals. Noting that CMS/CMMI seeks “people-centered, outcome-driven” results, Heinrich described the role of community health workers (CHWs) in the multidisciplinary teams that extend the abilities of primary care workers in state health care models. Working under state-defined competencies, CHWs are generally entry-level, front-line workers most often concerned with community outreach, a job that can be seen as a “pathway to professionalism” as a social worker. The role of social work in this process, Heinrich said, is in the training and supervision of CHWs. Heinrich also stated that it is critical for social workers to understand health care delivery systems and for social work educators to teach this knowledge. “Put your heads together,” she urged the audience, “to give students a better understanding of how finance is integral to what social work provides in the field.”