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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.


Posting Date: 03/07/2014
Contact Name: Patricia Fanning
Contact Phone: 410-706-7946
Contact Email: pfanning@umaryland.edu