We interrupt our regular programming for a brief update on Social Work Advocacy Day. If you haven’t already figured this out, Erin and I are BOTH social workers in training, thus today was a big day for us to get out and get active with the legislature. After attending a training last week, we gathered at the capitol early this morning to begin a strategic day of advocating for our chosen profession. On the docket are:
House Bill 969/Senate Bill 737: Loan Repayment Program for employees of Child Protective Service who work a minimum of one year. This bill serves the dual purpose of addressing the high turnover rates at CPS while providing caseworkers $5,000 a year in much needed loan repayment. According to the NASW, “CPS caseworkers who are recent graduates have an average of $20,000 in student debt and a starting annual salary of less than $32,000.”
House Bill 444/ Senate Bill 338: Liability Protection for social workers who volunteer in their communities. Although the social work code of ethics demands that we come to the aid of those in need, social workers are unprotected when they volunteer for crisis situations like disaster relief. Many other helping professions including doctors, dentists and nurses are protected by the state with liability protection in an effort to encourage civic engagement. Why are social workers left out of this picture?
House Bill 591/Senate Bill 339: Social Work Center for Workforce Studies. This bill seeks to establish a workforce resource center to study employment trends, highlight shortages and track workplace concerns for social workers. Best of all, it poses NO COST to the state and would be funded entirely by a $10 dollar surcharge on biannual social work licensing fees.
House Bill 1698: Adding School Social Workers to the Texas Education Code. This bill, which lost the support of school counselors in the last moment, advocates for adding a definition of school social workers to the Texas Education Code in an effort to clarify the unique role that social workers play in a school setting.
House Bill 624: Equitable Reimbursement for Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) who are Medicaid providers. According to the NASW “LCSWs receive reimbursement form Texas Medicaid at a rate that is only 70% of the rate paid to physicians and psychologists for the SAME service.” This bill would require that LCSWs are paid at the same rate as doctors and psychologists when providing the same service.
House Bill 1/Senate Bill 1: Higher Pay for Social Workers: Other professions with comparable training such as teachers and nurses receive far higher compensation as compared to social workers. This bill advocates to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates for LCSWs (see HB624) and raise salary rates for social workers that work in state agencies. This bill also seeks to increase funding for Texas Health and Human Service Programs to ensure that Texans who need help “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps” get the support they need.
Interested in one of these issues? You can check your bills status here
A Refection on Social Work Advocacy Day:
During our training we were encouraged to emphasize to legislators how social workers were the “boot straps” of Texas, helping individuals “obtain, regain, or retain their independence and self-sufficiency.” And while this is absolutely a part of social work, it was interesting to me that this particular angle was so specifically stressed. In other words, the message was almost “shhhhh don’t say poverty,” the legislators aren’t interested in handouts or enabling people but if you emphasize supporting their independence we might be able to find some common ground. This is not to say that social workers are not interested in or dedicated to supporting the self-determination of individuals, we are, it’s even in our code of ethics. But we are also willing to look at the intersecting systems and circumstances that contribute to an individual being in a position where additional support is needed. It’s possible that I digress with this point, but as someone who is less familiar with the machine of legislative advocacy it was interesting to see our profession so strategically packaged.