September 27, 2018 Compass
CSWE’s Director of Accreditation, Stacey Borasky, recently presented at a U.S. Department of Education (ED) public hearing. The purpose of the hearing was to solicit comments and feedback on ED’s proposal to establish a rulemaking committee tasked with updating regulations governing accreditation, state authorization, competency-based education, and other issues. An overview of this proposed rulemaking was highlighted
in last month’s CSWE Compass. CSWE’s comments at the hearing focused on the role of programmatic or specialized accreditors in ensuring high-quality academic programs. CSWE also noted that outcomes are best determined by the academic accrediting community, and that outcome measurements should not be mandated by the federal government.
Members of Congress returned to Washington with a busy agenda ahead of them. Much of the focus has been on funding the government. Congress has made record progress on the fiscal year 2019 appropriations process and has passed several funding bills on time for the first time in a decade. Congress is also hoping to pass a comprehensive legislative package to address the opioid crisis before members leave prior to the midterm elections. The House of Representatives passed their opioid package
in June, and the Senate passed their version
earlier this month. The two bills will head to conference to have the differences worked out. There is no timeline for a conference agreement, although the final bill is expected to be largely bipartisan, and both parties want to pass the legislation before the elections.
The Senate held hearings
on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh earlier this month, and the Senate Judiciary Committee planned to hold a vote on September 20. Voting on President Trump’s nominee before Senators leave town in late October is a top priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). However, recent allegations of sexual misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh have led to calls from Democrats and some Republicans to delay the process until the allegations can be considered and investigated.
On September 13, Senate and House of Representatives conferees reached an agreement on a fiscal year (FY) 2019 package to fund the Departments of Defense, Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. The Senate passed the bill on September 18 by a vote of 93–7. The House is expected to pass the bill next week. Of note, the package would support resources to combat the opioid crisis and increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), along with Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN), introduced an amendment to provide the Department of Education with $10 million for a demonstration program to test partnerships between higher education institutions and state and local education agencies to train school counselors, social workers, and other mental health professionals. The program aims to address shortages of school-based mental health service providers, particularly those in low-income areas. The amendment was included in the final version of the bill.
Health amendments that were adopted would require the following:
• A comprehensive NIH study of current funding levels related to mental health and substance use disorders.
• A report to Congress from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration on medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for prescription drug and opioid addiction, with a focus on how they are overcoming barriers to MAT for adolescents and young adults.
• A Government Accountability Office study of the relationship between intimate partner violence and traumatic brain injury.
• Increased funding for Lyme disease and activities related to neonatal abstinence syndrome at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The bill includes a $2 billion increase for NIH, which would bring the agency to $39.1 billion in FY 2019. This is the NIH’s fourth consecutive increase of at least $2 billion. During the Senate floor debate, senators on either side of the aisle expressed strong support for NIH-funded research, citing the importance of this funding to addressing challenges such as the opioid crisis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Despite objections from members of the House and a handful of senators, a proposal to include a $100 increase to the Pell Grant maximum award for the 2019–2020 school year was included in the final bill.
In its June 2018 issue, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published an article
written by program officers from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) titled “Closing Behavioral Health Workforce Gaps: A HRSA Program Expanding Direct Mental Health Service Access in Underserved Areas.” The article describes outcomes tied to HRSA’s Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) program, which supports the pipeline for new behavioral health professionals, including social workers. Several schools of social work are currently grantees of the BHWET program. The article discusses the number of behavioral health students supported by the program to date, including 3,523 new social workers, the largest among all eligible disciplines. The authors note, “programs such as BHWET are providing critical access to needed behavioral health services, and at the same time are working to neutralize the projected future gaps in the nation’s behavioral health workforce.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed rescinding the gainful employment regulations. These regulations, promulgated under the Obama Administration as a way of regulating for-profit education institutions and certificate programs at nonprofit institutions, can lead to programs losing access to federal aid if the typical debt-to-earnings ratio of graduates exceed a certain threshold. In announcing this proposal Secretary DeVos noted, “instead of targeting schools simply by their tax status, this administration is working to ensure students have transparent, meaningful information about all colleges and all programs.” The Department of Education (ED) is additionally considering an update to the College Scorecard, or a similar Web-based tool, to provide program-level outcomes, including program-level earnings data for all higher education programs, at all institutions that participate in title IV of the Higher Education Act. Additional disclosures that potentially would be required of all programs would include net price, program size, completion rates, and accreditation and licensing requirements. These disclosures would be made available on program Web pages. ED is accepting comments on this proposal until September 13.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has overhauled its Data Warehouse
Web page. The redesigned page promises easier access to statistics and insights on distribution of grant funding, areas with shortages of care providers, rural health data, and other information collected by HRSA. The website also allows for detailed queries across multiple datasets through its Data Portal.
September 9–15 is National Suicide Prevention Week. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has published a list of resources
, including 24-hour crisis lines and training materials, for care providers. HRSA notes, “nearly 45 percent of suicide victims had contact with primary care providers within 1 month of suicide,” underscoring the importance of a care workforce equipped to address suicide prevention.