On June 4 the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6). The bill would provide a pathway to permanent citizenship for several immigrant populations, including those with deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), temporary protected status, or deferred enforced departure status. The bill was a priority for House Democrats, who were joined by seven Republicans in supporting the measure. Support for DACA students is a priority for CSWE, as expressed in this letter sent to Congress by CSWE and other leading higher education organizations. The Senate is unlikely to take up the bill, and the Trump Administration has indicated it will hold off on addressing DACA while court cases dealing with the issue wind their way to the Supreme Court. CSWE will continue to advocate for a permanent legislative solution that provides certainty to DACA and similar populations.
On June 19 the House of Representatives passed its fiscal year 2020 bill to fund health and education programs, many of which are of importance to CSWE. The Senate is now preparing to consider its version of spending legislation. To advocate for social work programs and students, CSWE submitted outside witness testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and met with committee staff members in the majority to elaborate on CSWE’s priorities for the year.
In CSWE’s written testimony, President Darla Spence Coffey advocated for several programs of importance to social work and social work education. The testimony also mentioned increases in funding for some programs approved in the House’s final spending bill. In addition to highlighting support for health-care workforce programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, CSWE asked Congress to support investments in the Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health.
As part of the ongoing conversation on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development heard testimony on the barriers that contribute to low completion rates of students across the higher education ecosystem. Citing completion deficits across race and socioeconomic status, Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis (D-CA) argued, “gaps do not reflect a lack of effort or desire on the part of students. They reflect the numerous barriers underserved students face throughout their educational careers.” She called on Congress to make “bold” investments in student needs such as food, housing assistance, health care, and child care to ensure that students need not choose between a degree and their own or their family’s needs. The subcommittee also held a hearing titled “Engines of Economic Mobility: The Critical Role of Community Colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions in Preparing Students for Success." There was broad support for efforts to increase the number of faculty members from underrepresented populations.
Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Mike Burgess (R-TX) introduced the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness for Health Act of 2019 (H.R. 2781) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would reauthorize health workforce programs under the Public Health Services Act from fiscal year (FY) 2020 to FY 2024. According to an accompanying press release, “the legislation is designed to increase access to health care in underserved areas and diversify the health care providers to meet the needs of different populations.” Of interest to CSWE, the bill proposes increased funding levels for the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program and Geriatrics Academic Career Awards to $51 million. The bill would also establish a loan repayment program for health professionals serving at least 2 years in child and adolescent mental and behavioral health.
Congress has initiated efforts to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA); the current authorization expires this year. The efforts were kicked off following a Senate hearing on May 8 and a House hearing on May 15, both focused on the topic. A bipartisan draft of the OAA reauthorization was introduced in the Senate. Senator Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee, hopes the Senate will approve a final bill before the August recess, with the intention of completing the whole process before authorization of the current OAA expires on September 30. The House has begun conversations about its own version.
Introduced in 1965 and following on the heels of the Johnson Administration’s other social reform efforts such as the Civil Rights Act, the OAA was the first federal level initiative intended to create comprehensive social services for older adults. The law established the Administration on Aging and is divided into seven titles covering nutrition programs, employment, long-term care, state agency funding, housing, and protections against neglect and exploitation.
On June 12 the Congressional Social Work Caucus, in partnership with various social work and educational organizations, held a briefing titled “The Impact of Weapons and Violence on Schools and Surrounding Communities.” The briefing included testimony from three social work professors: Dr. Marleen Wong from the University of Southern California, Dr. Ron Avi Astor from the University of California Los Angeles, and Dr. Sean Joe from Washington University in St. Louis. The panelists discussed mental health and mental safety services in schools, training for teachers and other school professionals on violence prevention and interventions, suicide prevention programs, and other efforts to reduce gun violence and promote mental health in schools. Panelists voiced their support for funding research into gun violence prevention and response at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strengthening of suicide prevention programs at NIH and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, increasing support for the Title IV-A Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program, and better incorporating violence prevention and interventions training into teacher and educational programs at universities and colleges.
On May 30 the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) held its spring meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council, a group of external researchers and other stakeholders from the mental health community that helps inform the activities and policies of NIMH related to mental health research, training, and other activities. NIMH Director Josh Gordon announced efforts to update the 2015 strategic plan. This will be the first update under Dr. Gordon’s leadership, and he has indicated an intent to focus on cross-cutting themes, including the origins of mental illness, transforming the trajectory of mental illness, mental health equity, computational psychiatry and big data, and research workforce training. There will also be a greater effort to communicate priorities to researchers and the broader public. NIMH intends to release a draft of the 2020 strategic plan for public comment this summer, and CSWE will offer feedback.
The Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Health Workforce is now accepting applications for its fiscal year Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP) competition. The FLRP works to recruit and retain faculty members from disadvantaged backgrounds who have eligible health professions degrees or certificates. The program provides up to $40,000 to help repay the outstanding principal and interest of qualifying educational loans. Applications are due by 7:30 PM ET on June 27.
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) is accepting applications for the Rural Community Loan Repayment Program, which will award up to $100,000 in student loan repayment to primary care and behavioral health clinicians nationwide who provide substance use disorder (SUD) treatment in rural communities. In exchange, participants must commit to serve for 3 years at a rural NHSC-approved SUD treatment facility located in a mental health or primary care Health Professional Shortage Area. Applications are due by 7:30 PM ET on July 18.