Dr. Darla Spence Coffey, CSWE president and CEO, and CSWE Government Relations staff attended the Eldercare Workforce Alliance’s (EWA’s) biannual full alliance meeting on June 20. EWA, a coalition of 35 national organizations of which CSWE is a member, addresses immediate and future workforce needs in caring for the nation’s population of older adults. Members reviewed EWA’s policy agenda, discussed future priority areas, and addressed governance and operational issues. Several government officials reported on federal initiatives and programs of importance to CSWE members. Michelle Washko, director of the National Center for Health Workforce at the Health Resources and Services Administration, reported on recent behavioral and mental health supply and demand projections. Additional topics of discussion included an update on the alliance’s collective reauthorization strategy for the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program and the status of the Older Americans Act.
As noted in April’s Advocacy in Action, CSWE recently submitted comments in response to higher education regulations promulgated by the Department of Education (ED). Since last summer, ED has been in the process of promulgating new regulations in several areas, including accreditation. CSWE has commented more than once, seeking to ensure that programmatic accreditation is focused on developing high-quality programs for social work students. In comments to ED, CSWE President and CEO Dr. Darla Spence Coffey noted, “CSWE encourages the Department to ensure that programmatic accrediting agencies have the autonomy to focus on institutional quality.” ED is expected to publish the final regulations by November 1, 2019.
CSWE and the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) have nominated Dr. Daniel Kaplan, assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Adelphi University, for consideration as a member of the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services following the most recent request for nominees. Kaplan’s service to families affected by Alzheimer’s began with his first job following his MSW as a dementia specialist on the elder protective services team at a community-based agency on aging. As an investigator and clinician, he learned about dementia and how families facing dementia were perhaps the most in need of social workers who could serve as counselor, educator, advocate, mediator, trainer, and coordinator. This led Kaplan to work at a larger organization coordinating these needs on a broader scale, eventually motivating him to earn his doctorate to contribute to the knowledge base that could inform practice and capture the attention of legislators and health-care leaders. The Advisory Council is a highly esteemed group of representatives from the government, academia, and the broader stakeholder community. CSWE and SSWR support Kaplan as an excellent addition to represent the social work discipline.
CSWE joined several organizations in endorsing the Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act of 2019 (HR 2431) by signing a letter spearheaded by the Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG). The legislation, which was reintroduced in Congress earlier this year, would authorize a new loan repayment program for mental health professionals to relieve workforce shortages. The MHLG letter of support is addressed to the bill’s original sponsors, Reps. John Katko (R-NY) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and states the signatories “applaud your goal of building a robust mental and behavioral health workforce and the inclusion of more eligible mental health providers as part of this legislation.”
An appellate court has heard a lawsuit from several Republican attorneys general aiming to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will rule on whether the 2019 district court decision declaring the ACA unconstitutional will stand. The district court had ruled that the individual mandate is not separable from the rest of the law and therefore the ACA must be declared unconstitutional in the wake of the repeal of the “individual mandate” provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Regardless of how the panel rules, the case will probably be heard by the Supreme Court, which has twice previously upheld the law.
In other health-care news, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved a bipartisan legislative package aimed at lowering the costs of health care and prescription drugs. The package seeks to end balance billing (also known as surprise billing), ensure access to generic prescription drugs, improve transparency and exchange of health costs and information, and improve public health through training and innovation programs. Notably, the bill would extend mandatory funding for community health centers and authorize grants to increase access to specialized health-care services for medically underserved communities.
The House Committee on Education and Labor held the last of its five hearings on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), which was focused on innovation and pathways to a college degree. Multiple members of Congress and witnesses highlighted the growing use of dual enrollment to address costs and increase access. Other issues discussed included competency-based education, intrusive advising, completion grants, stackable credentials, and apprenticeships. Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) noted, "Congress has a responsibility to explore innovative strategies that provide more students the support they need to complete college and reach their full potential. But as we pursue new pathways for students to earn a quality degree, we cannot sacrifice our commitment to quality and equity." Although the committee recently has been focused on labor, health care, and civil rights legislation, an HEA reauthorization bill could be introduced in the fall, especially if Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is unwilling to compromise to produce a bipartisan bill.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently released two notices of funding opportunities related to mental health. The Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program provides grants to high-need local educational agencies (LEAs) working in partnership with institutions of higher education. The funding opportunity notice states that ED data from the 2015–2016 school year showed evidence “there were not enough counselors, social workers, or nurses employed by our public schools.” The grants will help support and demonstrate innovative partnerships to train school-based mental health providers for employment in schools and LEAs. The program will expand the pipeline of high-quality trained providers to address the shortage of mental health professionals. Applications are due by August 5, 2019.
The Trauma Recovery Demonstration Grant Program provides competitive grants to state educational agencies (SEAs) to support model programs that enable students from low-income families to access the trauma-specific mental-health services from the provider that best meets a student's needs. SEAs may partner with one or more nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, or state or local mental health agencies to carry out projects. Applications are due by August 14, 2019.
The Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), of which CSWE is a member, released its year-in-review report on the “Together We Care” campaign. The campaign, launched in April 2018, examined EWA’s 10 years of progress since establishment and shared solutions to current and future workforce needs. The report details the activities undertaken in the past 12 months, each of which had a dedicated theme. EWA is a coalition of 35 national organizations that seek to address immediate and future workforce needs in caring for the nation’s population of older adults.