From the Director
Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act #ADA31
MSWs in the Making: MFP Master's Graduates 2021
Fellow Featured in PBS/WORLD Channel Series “Decolonizing Mental Health”
Dear Fellows and Alumni,
On July 26, 2021, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) turns 31! Explore and learn about the ADA here. In observance of the ADA’s 31st anniversary current doctoral fellow Lanalle Darden, DSW, LISW-CP, shares her experience as it intersects with the ADA and her resulting perspective on implications for social work education, policy, and practice.
In 1990 when the Americans With Disabilities Act was signed into law, I was just beginning my college career and had no idea how the legislation would impact me in the years ahead when my daughter was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Much of my experience with advocacy began as a result of her disability, which became the springboard for my social work career. As someone who was raised in a marginalized community, I quickly realized there were many others who were not equipped with the knowledge about disability rights and how to use them to advocate for themselves or their families in academic and professional settings. This is not surprising, as these systems can feel enormously intimidating to take on alone.
Having worked with children, youths, and families with mental health conditions for the past 20 years, there are several ways the ADA has intersected with my role in direct social work practice and leadership. Many individuals may not consider mental illness a disability since it is not always observable; however, the ADA as defined includes mental impairment as a disability. Therefore, it is important for social workers to recognize when our clients face systemic issues addressed in this act and empower them with information and resources to advocate for their needs in various settings.Many social work programs offer courses that support the natural progression of social workers as managers and leaders. Since it is often the case that practitioners share the same traumatic experiences as their clients, workplaces should ensure that trauma-informed care includes staff as well as clients. Workplace settings must create safer climates that are less stigmatizing for workers to disclose when they are suffering from a disabling mental health condition. Additionally, we must do more to embrace the intentional hiring of professionals with lived mental health experience to ensure that services are driven from a client perspective. It is possible that this could help to neutralize privileged perspectives of ableism within policy and practice and hopefully remove barriers that limit the ability to recognize and understand disability as an aspect of diversity.
Many fellows in the MFP’s 2020–2021 Master’s Cohort are celebrating graduations this spring and summer! As these “MSWs in the Making" emerge as fully qualified social workers seeking professional employment in the mental health and substance use spheres, we encourage you to review this booklet that highlights their experience, interests, and career ambitions. As you explore, please take a moment to consider how fellows’ experiences and goals align with professional opportunities in your sphere. In the meantime, please join the MFP team in congratulating our fellows on this tremendous accomplishment.
Roberto Lara, University of Utah (UT) Regina Honorat, Columbia University (NY) Andrea Camacho de Anda, Arizona State University
In a conversation moderated by Tina Martin, a panel of mental health industry experts and advocates—Dr. Sidney Hankerson, Dr. Dan Foster, Paul Hoang, LCSW, and Shawna Murray-Browne, LCSW-C—discussed the unique mental health care challenges faced by underrepresented communities. Read a recap of the event and watch the conversation in full. Decolonizing Mental Health is part of a multiplatform initiative from GBH that includes the 4-hour Mysteries of Mental Illness docuseries (premiering nationwide on PBS on June 22 and 23, and on WORLD on June 24 and 25) tracing the evolution of the complex topic of mental health from its earliest days to present times.
Amittia Parker, LMSW, MPA, is a graduating doctoral fellow interested in understanding and addressing behavioral health disparities. She is passionate about increasing access and use of services and supports for mental health among Black and Latin/x families and has worked for over a decade as a mental health consultant across a variety of settings in Kansas City. Parker is a doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas, School of Social Welfare, and engaged in research, teaching, and service. Her research agenda is focused on promoting minority mental health, with a particular interest in Black and Latinx families with young children. Amittia promotes racially sensitive practice in the courses she teaches and in guest lectures. She also provides training and consultation services focused on racial equity and mental health and serves in leadership roles in local, state, and national venues focused on infant and early childhood, the African American community, and Black social workers.