by Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

Over the last year I become a cancer survivor, I had two friends also go through cancer treatment, my sibling disappeared, my elderly mother faced huge challenges of loss of independence, and a close friend was hospitalized for a serious illness.   In several of these situations I was blessed with the support of an excellent social worker as well as friends and family. The social work motto, “life can change in a moment” hit home for me this past year.

Such is life at times.  You never know when you will need the help of a supportive social worker, as well as your own support network.  We social workers are there to help people in their darkest and most troubled times. We help people cope with emergencies, crisis and trauma. We find hidden resources for our clients. We help people find creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

The role we play for our clients is also the roleNASWWIplays for you, our member.  Almost every social worker will encounter at some time an extremely difficult ethical, practice or legal dilemma or challenge.  These dilemmas/challenges can happen suddenly and require immediate assistance. These situations can involve a subpoena, bullying by an attorney or supervisor, potential or actual loss of a job, an unexpected dual relationship or conflict of interest. It can involve an unfair client grievance, difficulty obtaining certification or licensure, a problem getting insurance reimbursement or a sudden drop in insurance reimbursement that threatens the member’s livelihood.   I help our members almost every week with these types of situations as does the NASW national office.  If I do not have the expertise to help one of our members, I will find someone either at the national office or inWisconsinwho can provide this assistance. 

In addition our Association facilitates members helping members with a variety of needs.  At the Wisconsin Chapter we have a very active Clinical Network whose members respond to concerns, questions and challenges faced by fellow clinical social workers inWisconsin. Many members volunteer to lead Annual Conference workshops that provide critical hands on information that helps social workers do their day to day work.  The NASW national office has Specialty Sections, where you can connect with the leading experts in social work practice in a variety of fields including, aging, child welfare, mental health, school social work, private practice, health, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and social and economic justice and peace.    Finally if you are a student member or young professional who would like a mentor or to connect with an experienced social worker we can work to help you with this need.

Beyond the individual assistance that the Wisconsin Chapter and national office provides members, are the systems and legislative advocacy we provide to support social workers and their clients.  The systems advocacy provided for many years by the Wisconsin Chapter led to the Department of Health Services finally agreeing this past November to reimburse Certified Advanced Practice Social Workers for Medicaid services provided at outpatient mental health clinics.  Our legislative advocacy helped obtain mental health parity forWisconsinand the mandated direct insurance reimbursement for licensed clinical social workers (Vendorship) a few years ago.  Also our advocacy with Humana Lifesynch resulted in many members receiving an increase in reimbursement rates.  Advocacy from the national office resulted in the College Cost Reduction Act of 2006 including social workers in loan forgiveness for the first time.

As social workers we understand that life can change in a moment.  We also understand the challenges in our work and the need for support.  Your professional association is here to support you and your fellow social workers.  However our ability to support other social workers so they can continue to do this wonderful work is only possible with your continued membership and involvement.  We need you to be there for your fellow social workers as a member of NASW WI so we can continue to provide the helping hand as your professional association.