Social Work Advocacy Day provides local prospects insight into making a change

Live at Five
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 12:29 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Prospective social workers were at Washburn University and the statehouse Wednesday morning, learning how to network and advocate for change in their field.

Wednesday, March 8, is Social Work Advocacy Day, where Kansas students and faculty members gather for advocacy and network training.

According to Washburn University, lawmakers are discussing several bills that could change the mental health care profession. One bill under consideration would enable social workers who received training online to fill vacant jobs if enacted. Another measure, if passed, would “simplify the process of accepting out-of-state licenses.”

According to Becky Fast, the executive director of the National Association of Social Workers’ Kansas Chapter, there is a significant shortage in the profession, and the hope is that if these bills pass the legislature, along with a couple more provisions to change the industry, then more students will be interested in becoming Kansas social workers.

“Kansas has a severe workforce shortage,” said Fast. “We need these students to stay in Kansas. Mental Health is healthcare, and access to mental health in some communities, especially in our rural communities, have no mental health provider. Social workers are the largest provider of mental health in Kansas and the nation, so we are advocating for reimbursement rates, which will help to hire social workers. We are advocating for Medicaid expansion — it is long overdue — and for school social work. There is a committee hearing this afternoon to fund mental health in schools, which would result in having more school social workers across our school districts.”

Washburn University cites a study from Mental Health America — a site that tracks mental illnesses and access to care for patients — which placed Kansas at the bottom of the list in the categories of adult care, youth care, and prevalence of mental illnesses. However, one classification ranked three other states below Kansas. Under the access to mental health care category, Kansas was ranked 48, followed by Georgia, Alabama, and Texas.

Fast says the purpose of this training event is to show the students that they can be a voice for change and make an impact in their field.

“I hope what they take back is that they too can be a voice for change, and they too have the skills to contact their legislator, their state representative, state senator; that it is not out of reach, “ said Fast. “Many students and professional social workers feel like they can’t make a difference. We hope that they walk away believing they too can make a difference.”