by Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

Perhaps the most critical role of NASW WI is to advocate for you-our member and for the social work profession.    While you are doing the client, cause and systems advocacy to help your clients, we are advocating on your behalf so you can do your job more effectively, safely, and are given the respect, security and salary you deserve. 

It seems like the challenges to social work practice never end.   We recently sent a strong letter to the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children & Families requesting that they reverse a decision made by the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare to drop the requirement that child abuse investigators be certified social workers. We have asked for a meeting as a follow-up to our letter.  The latest job announcement would apparently allow someone with a high school diploma and some “related” experience to qualify for these positions! 

Earlier in the summer two of our long standing members with decades of substance abuse and mental health treatment experience were dropped as providers by the Department of Health Services for driver safety referrals because they didn’t work in state regulated substance abuse clinics.  DHS did not deny that these individuals were fully qualified to provide the service but claimed the law prevented them from receiving referrals. I am currently working with a Republican legislator to address this situation.

A third issue relates to the Prior Authorization requirement to provide psychotherapy for Medicaid clients.   We have been fighting these requirements from the Department of Health Services for years.  We have now joined a coalition of Medicaid providers which is requesting a meeting with the Secretary of the Department of Health Services. 

A fourth issue relates to insurance coverage for social workers transporting clients in their own cars.  Along with one of our members, I recently met with State Senator Lena Taylor who agreed to work on a resolution to this liability issue.

Two years ago we successfully convinced Humana/Lifesynch to agree to renegotiate reimbursement rates for providers that they had lowered below Medicaid levels.  Most providers who renegotiated received a boost in the rates.  However this lower of rates seems to be reoccurring.

Social work safety is always a matter of concern to NASW.   We are currently the lead organization promoting a bill that would amend the Castle Doctrine to include certified and licensed social workers and other human services and mental health staff providing home visits to clients.  Currently only police officers, firefighters and EMS workers are exempt from the Castle Doctrine’s provisions that allow a resident to use deadly force on someone they believe to be an intruder.

At its July board meeting NASW WI created a Jobs and Salary Task Force to promote social work employment and good salaries.   For the first time in seven years NASW WI conducted a salary survey, which should help social workers bargain for higher salaries.  We are also looking to encourage research in Wisconsin on social work practice so we can better advocate for the hiring of social workers.  We believe this research would demonstrate that social workers retain their positions, help an agency’s “bottom line”, improve client outcomes, reduce readmissions to hospitals, help increase student behavior and achievement and reduce overly restrictive and expensive placements for the elderly and disabled.

All of our advocacy for the profession is done with the help of volunteers like yourself.  If you would like to help in the advocacy efforts of any of the above mentioned projects, please email me at or call me at (608) 257-6334.