SSW Dean Urges Lawmakers to Support Social Work Scholarships
Dean of the University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW) Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, capped the
School's 2014 Advocacy Day in Annapolis by testifying on behalf of a
bill before the House Ways and Means Committee. A group of SSW students
was in the crowded hearing room on March 5 as Barth advocated creation
of a "much-needed" Ruth M. Kirk Public Social Work Scholarship to
increase public support available to social work students.
House Bill 1222 would create a scholarship for bachelor's and master's
level social work students who would, in turn, commit themselves to a
period of public service that is likely to extend for their entire
careers. The bill was introduced by Del. Keith Haynes, JD, MPA, of
Baltimore's 44th District, who appeared with Barth and Aline Kirk
Watson, daughter of the late Del. Kirk, a community advocate who had
previously represented Baltimore's 44th District.
In the photo above, Watson, left, is shown with Haynes; Judy Kirk
Price, who is also a daughter of the late Del. Kirk; and Barth, far
right. Ruth M. Kirk, who served for 28 years as a delegate from West Baltimore,
died in 2011.
"Although the state of Maryland and social work programs, specifically,
have endeavored to keep tuition and fees low, the costs are still
significant for students and their families," said Barth, calling the
bill "an important proposal to increase support available to social
work students like those here today who by the time they graduate from
a master's program in social work typically have debt from their UM SSW
education in excess of $50,000."
Earlier a larger group of SSW students shadowed or heard from
legislators, including Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, MBA, of Maryland's 40th
District and Del. Mary L. Washington, PhD, MA, of the 43rd District
in Baltimore. Washington urged the group to be attuned to the needs of
their communities and to find ways to advocate on their behalf.
University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB)
President Jay A. Perman, MD,
met with the 40 SSW students during their activities, which were
overseen by Michael Reisch, PhD, MSW,
MA, the Daniel Thursz Distinguished Professor of Social Justice.
"Each year, the School of Social Work brings several dozen students to
Annapolis to learn about the legislative process and to begin to
acquire the skills involved in policy advocacy. These vital
skills help them fulfill the profession's ethical commitment to social
justice and meet the needs of the people and communities with whom we
work," Reisch said.
As with other schools at UMB, advocacy activities are organized in
cooperation with the University's Office of
Government and Community Affairs, which enlists lawmakers to host
individual students during the morning. Haynes was among those
who allowed an SSW student to shadow him, a way to better experience
the work of the Maryland General Assembly.
If Haynes' proposal, HB 1222, were to pass, the benefits will extend
well beyond reducing the debt burden for individuals, Barth testified.
"The Affordable Care Act, the growing number of veterans with
complicated behavioral health concerns, and the expansion of federally
qualified health and behavioral health programs all call for an
expanding number of social workers to provide preventive and
intervention mental health, substance abuse, aging, and employment
assistance services," he said.
"Recent estimates from the Health Resources and Services Administration
suggest that the nation may be short 15,000 social workers in the next
decade," he said. "Marylanders will need their share."
Barth also clarified, under questioning from Del. Melvin L. Stukes
of the 44th District, that these numbers were only for social
workers providing clinical behavioral health services. If social
workers involved in the growing sectors of school social work and early
childhood services were also included, the need would be much greater.
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