CSWE PPI Celebrates Social Work Month
March 20 was Social Work Day on the Hill, a day of advocacy for health care, education, and social justice issues of importance to social work and social work education. The CSWE Public Policy Initiative (PPI) participated in the day, which is hosted by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. Social Work Month provided the CSWE PPI an opportunity to highlight the importance of social work and social work education to policy makers. On March 25, CSWE participated with other organizations in a Twitter chat hosted by the Eldercare Workforce Alliance. The chat focused on the role of social work and the aging population and the importance of addressing social determinants of health.
CSWE Presents Advocacy Tips to HEALS
On March 12 the CSWE Public Policy Initiative gave a presentation to the Social Work Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars (HEALS). CSWE and the NASW Foundation partner to develop and implement the Social Work HEALS program, which helps develop the next generation of health-care social work leaders to address system-level changes, heighten awareness of prevention and wellness, and tackle the issues of structural racism that are embedded in social institutions.
The presentation supported Social Work HEALS participants as they prepared to meet with their members of Congress or congressional staff the following day. During their meetings the scholars informed policymakers about issues of importance to social work and social work education. Issues included preserving vital health-care workforce programs, such as Title VII health professions programs, and supporting policies to preserve vital access to health care.
CSWE Participates in HPNEC Titles VII and VIII Briefing
The CSWE Public Policy Initiative (PPI) and Dr. Janice Berry Edwards, MSW, PhD, LICSW, LCSW-C, ACSW, BCD, associate professor at Howard University, were part of a recent Health Professions and Nursing Education Coalition (HPNEC) briefing on Capitol Hill. The briefing focused on health professions and nursing workforce development programs authorized under Titles VII and VIII of the Public Health Service Act. CSWE is a member of HPNEC, an informal alliance of more than 65 organizations representing schools, programs, health professionals, and students dedicated to educating professional health personnel. Dr. Edwards spoke about how a Health Resources and Services Administration Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training grant received by Howard University supports the training of social work students providing care to diverse client populations in medically underserved areas of Washington, DC. Students are acquiring clinical experience working with diverse populations including children, adolescents, and populations through the life span.
CSWE PPI Attends CHCI Health Summit
On March 14 the CSWE Public Policy Initiative (PPI) attended the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Health Summit. Attendees heard from policy makers and stakeholders on the health challenges affecting Latino/a/x communities and how to improve outcomes. Topics included increasing diversity in clinical trials, the need to ensure a culturally competent workforce, and collection of data at the community level.
Budget Request Proposes Cuts to Education and Health Care
On March 11 President Trump released his third annual budget proposal to Congress. Arriving one month late due to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request reflects the political priorities of the Trump Administration and kicks off the congressional budget and appropriations process. It is ultimately up to Congress to decide which proposals to accept, modify, or reject as part of the annual funding process. Congress is likely to reject most of the proposed cuts for nondefense federal agencies of importance to social work education. The budget request for the Department of Education proposes significant changes to higher education, including aspects of the administration’s principles for a Higher Education Act reauthorization. The request proposes flat funding of the Pell Grant maximum award at $6,195 and elimination of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, subsidized student loans, and the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need program.
Many health-care and workforce programs of importance to social workers and social work education would be affected. In the Health Resources and Services Administration, the request proposes elimination of the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program and the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program. The Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program would receive flat funding at the FY 2019 level, and the Minority Fellowship Program in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration would be eliminated.
Democrats Ramping Up Focus on Gun Violence With Hearings and Legislation
For the first time in 8 years, House Democrats have started holding hearings on reducing gun violence. In 2016 more than 72,000 Americans died of firearm injuries; 27,000 were killed by someone else with a gun, and almost 45,000 deaths were self-inflicted with a gun. During the same period almost 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. Gun violence, like overdose, is a public health emergency, but due to complex political issues, little federal funding is used to conduct research into best strategies for reducing gun related deaths.
On March 7 the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing, Addressing the Public Health Emergency of Gun Violence, during which panelists discussed the current state of research and barriers to developing a deeper and more reliable body of knowledge about gun violence. On March 13 the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which has oversight of the Department of Justice’s budget, held a hearing titled Gun Violence Prevention and Enforcement.
Democrats have already passed two pieces of gun control legislation in the House. One bill, introduced by Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), would extend the time for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct a background check from 3 days to 10 days. This would close a loophole allowing guns to be purchased when the FBI could not complete the check within 3 days, even though the background check was not cleared. The other bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), would require background checks for all firearm sales regardless of setting. Under present law, only licensed firearm dealers must seek a background check. The Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to take up either of these bills. House Democrats, however, have indicated that they intend to introduce more legislation later this year, putting pressure on members to take public votes on a topic with many political and electoral implications.
Higher Education Issues Receive Hill Attention
Higher education was on the minds of several congressional committees recently. The House Committee on Education and Labor held its fist higher education hearing of the 116th Congress. The hearing, The Cost of College: Student Centered Reforms to Bring Higher Education Within Reach, explored ways to address college costs, including proposals to increase state investment in higher education and reduce the costs of student loans. Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) noted the importance of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program during the hearing. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing, Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Simplifying the FAFSA and Reducing the Burden of Verification, on March 12. Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) simplification has been a priority of several senators and enjoys bipartisan support, making it likely that the final Higher Education Act reauthorization bill will include some element of FAFSA simplification. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations also held hearings on for-profit colleges and student loan servicing.
White House Releases Report on Proposed Technologies to Aid Aging U.S. Population
On March 5 the White House’s National Science and Technology Council released a new report, Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population. The number of individuals older than 65 years is projected to comprise nearly a quarter of the U.S. population in coming decades. This report identifies innovations with the potential to improve to the quality of life for older Americans and those living with disabilities, focusing on issues such as access to transportation and health care, personal mobility, social connectivity, and cognitive health. It also discusses the research and development necessary to get these technologies to market. Focusing on key ways technology can help facilitate maintaining independence as people age, the report makes recommendations to the public and private sectors. However, no specific proposed investments by the administration are detailed in the report, and the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2020 proposes cutting funding for the National Institute on Aging by 14%. Despite the report and the pressing national need, development of aging technology aids does not seem to be a top priority for the Trump Administration.
HRSA Issues Opioid Workforce Expansion Program Solicitation for Behavioral Health Professionals
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is soliciting applications for the Opioid Workforce Expansion Program Professionals track. The program will develop the behavioral health workforce focusing on opioid use disorder and other substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services. The notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) outlines a special focus on the needs of “children, adolescents, and transitional-age youths in high need and high demand areas.” HRSA intends to issue 29 awards of up to $1.35 million for a total of $39.3 million in grants. Eligible applicants include accredited master’s or doctoral-level degree programs of social work and current social work awardees under the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program. HRSA has also issued a NOFO for a paraprofessionals OWEP track. Applications to these programs are due by May 7, 2019.