Population of Immigrant Children Detained at Border Continues to Grow
On September 28 President Trump signed into law a bill funding the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for fiscal year 2019. The bill funds ED at $71.5 billion, an increase of $581 million. This increase is a clear rejection of the cuts proposed by the president’s budget request and includes a $100 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award and increases of $50 million and $10 million, respectively, for the TRIO and GEAR UP programs. The bill provides a fourth consecutive increase of at least $2 billion for NIH, bringing the agency’s total funding to $39.1 billion. The total includes $711 million for specific initiatives in the NIH Innovation Account authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act. CSWE weighed in with members of Congress throughout the drafting of the bill and sent a letter to members negotiating the final bill. The letter advocated for continued investments in vital programs to support social work students and ensure a strong pipeline of professionals to meet the social needs challenges facing the United States.
On October 3 the Senate passed and sent to the president a package of bills to combat the opioid crisis. The legislation passed the House of Representatives on September 28. Of note, the bill expands access for substance use treatment services and allows mental and behavioral health providers participating in the National Health Service Corps program to provide care at a school or other community-based setting in a health professional shortage area. The package also provides up to $250,000 in a new loan repayment program for substance use disorder treatment professionals who serve 6 years in mental health professional shortage areas or counties with the highest number of drug overdoses. The CSWE Public Policy Initiative worked with Representative Katherine Clark’s (D-MA) office to support this new loan repayment program, which ensures an adequate pipeline of substance use providers, including social workers. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
NIH Releases Sexual Harassment Policy Guidance
NASEM Holds Meeting on Social Needs and Health-Care Integration
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the agency’s internal watchdog group, conducted a review of the consequences of the Trump administration’s policy, initiated in May 2018, to separate immigrant families at the border. The OIG found that poor planning led to poor execution, policy violations, communication breakdowns, and a general indifference by the administration regarding the impact of these decisions on the safety and well-being of children being held in custody and their families. Following a Freedom of Information Act request late last month, it was discovered that contrary to her earlier claims that there was no formal policy, DHS Director Kirstjen Nielsen had signed off on a memo that approves prosecuting all adults, including those with families, who cross the border illegally, knowing that this would result in thousands of children being separated from their families.
At present, more than 13,000 immigrant children are being held in a mix of facilities. CSWE has provided members with voluntary action alerts on this issue. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently released information regarding their policies on sexual harassment. NIH Director Francis Collins announced a new website on September 17 that outlines all NIH policies regarding its future responses to incidents of sexual harassment and new actions the agency will take. He reiterated that an institution receiving an NIH grant is “required to develop and implement policies and practices that foster a harassment-free environment.” If an institution discovers a principal investigator (PI) engaged in sexual harassment, it must notify NIH before replacing the PI. The agency maintains the right to suspend or terminate the grant if the actions taken by the institution are not deemed acceptable.
These actions follow a June report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine titled Sexual Harassment of Women that demonstrated how widespread and systemic the problem is in all research fields. On September 24 the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) held a meeting of the Committee on Integrating Social Needs Care into the Delivery of Health Care to Improve the Nation’s Health. The committee heard from the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) on federal efforts to include social services in health-care delivery. ACL cited a survey showing that although four of five physicians thought unmet social needs directly and negatively affect patient health, the physicians were not confident of their ability to provide social needs care, underscoring the importance of social workers in comprehensive health-care delivery. HRSA discussed the need for increased collection and analysis of health workforce data to understand who is providing integrated social needs and health care. As an example, HRSA stated that only 19% of Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program participants were physicians. HRSA also said it will increase investments in nonphysician, non-nursing workforce programs starting in fiscal year 2019.
The committee will hold one more meeting before beginning to draft a final report on the state of social needs care and health-care integration and recommendations for areas of improvement.