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The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest professional association of social workers in the world.  As the only organization dedicated to advocating for the entire profession of social work, NASW strengthens the social work profession and gives social workers and clients a stronger voice.

NASW Metro DC Releases Statement for Racial Justice and Equality

June 5, 2020

The murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd May 25 was abhorrent. So was that of EMT Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. And Ahmaud Arbery of Georgia. The list of African Americans killed by police is too long to cite because it extends over 400 years and leaves out the disproportionately high number of Black victims of non-fatal but highly traumatic abuse, torture, harassment, and degradation by law enforcement nationwide.

Social workers in metropolitan DC witness the short- and long-term harm caused by these and other racial injustices every day in their jobs—in schools and hospitals, in government agencies and health clinics. As the largest number of behavioral health providers in the country, social workers receive extensive training, follow a code of ethics, and advocate fiercely for the advancement of inclusiveness, tolerance, and equality.

Now, others—having heard Mr. Floyd repeatedly plead, “I can’t breathe!” to no avail under the deliberate knees of arrogant policemen--are using their own breath with ours to scream, “Stop! Enough!” Their own breath with ours to chant in the streets, call out legislators and leaders, yell for accountability, and turn to each other for vigorous discussion of possible actions to upend embedded racism from America’s myriad social systems.

A traumatized America is finally moved from indignation to outrage to action. We as social workers see and affirm the pain of the African American community and acknowledge four centuries of past wrongs done to fellow community members due simply to skin color.

We know we have not done enough to redress past racism and promote equality, and we are angry as hell—at police in Minneapolis, at indifferent and complicit law enforcement and judicial leaders nationwide, at a largely privileged and purposely blindered American society, and at ourselves for excelling at advocating strongly for individual clients and lamenting less on the larger reasons for their concerning conditions.

Despite our shared training and values of tolerance and acceptance, we as social workers have yet to fully unite our strengths in ways that leverage our profession’s full potential to advance racial justice and equality, to take more responsibility in this newly awakened world.

As social workers in metro DC specifically—where 46% of the population is Black—we know that our African American clients feel disenfranchised. We see their demands for attention to inequities around education, housing, employment, health, and criminal justice continue without redress from generation to generation. We continue to witness the costs--in higher numbers of COVID-19 deaths among minorities due to health disparities, in lower school graduation rates, in lopsided unemployment and wage gaps, and—yes—in lives under the guise of “keeping the peace.” Black lives do matter!

As we all face our ugly past, we as social workers also pledge to look ahead and create new understanding and hope based on active listening, purposeful inclusion, and mutual respect. We pledge to be active, committed leaders who will bring our training and skills to accelerate this transformation of American democracy.

As a reinvigorated chapter, we are asking all DC Metro social workers to join with us to find a path that moves the issues forward. This statement is our launching pad. Next is our Town Hall Meeting “Advancing Racial Justice and Equity” June 10 from 6 to 7 p.m., where we will listen first to inform our actions later.

While our tactics remain unclear, our mission is not: We will do better. We as a chapter pledge to work harder to ensure that two systems of criminal justice, two systems of mental and physical health care, and two systems of education and employment are united into one country where freedom and justice is for all.


NASW Metro DC Supports Texas Social Workers Fighting Code of Ethics Changes That Enable Potential Discrimination

The NASW Metro DC Chapter stands in solidarity with Texas social workers who are fighting their Governor’s removal of protections against discrimination for disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression from the Social Work Code of Conduct! The Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners (TSBSWE) accepted the language from the Governor, whose rationalization is that agency rules cannot be more expansive than those in state law. However, the board has the explicit statutory authority to propose and adopt rules regarding “the scope of practice of and standards of care and ethical practice for social work.” This includes defining anti-discrimination protections under the Code of Conduct, which “should receive protected status,” says the chapter. “Social workers already have the ability to decline to provide services to a client based on their competencies and training, but they cannot discriminate based on selective personal values … [the new language] could send the erroneous message that [discrimination] is allowed. This might deter a client from coming in for services or cause a social worker to withhold a service they are ethically obligated to provide.” Sign this petition to show Texas social workers you oppose any changes to their Code of Conduct!


Metro DC Chapter Applauds NASW Coalition Calling for CDC to Slow High Rate of COVID-19 in Jails, Prisons

NASW has co-signed a letter with a coalition of 100-plus medical experts, human rights organizations, and faith-based organizations that calls on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to revise its current COVID-19 guidance for adult and juvenile correctional facilities to restrict the use of punitive and prolonged solitary confinement as a form of pandemic response at the federal, state, and local levels. Learn more here.

Stop Racism

NASW Releases Statement Opposing Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping

NASW has released a statement voicing "deep disappointment" in President Trump's Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping. "The order distorts our nation’s history and broadly understood concepts such as 'systemic racism' and 'White privilege.' And it is a thinly veiled attempt by Trump to stoke racial division in an already-fractured country for his own political purpose." Read the full statement:


NASW Metro DC Mourns Death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg

NASW Virginia is deeply saddened at the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an icon of the movement to protect and secure human rights for immigrants, women, and LGBTQ citizens. An “unflagging champion for gender equality and a trailblazer for equal justice under the law,” according to NASW, Justice Ginsburg was only the second woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and she served until her final living day. She lies in repose at the Supreme Court Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 22 and 23, and will be buried next to her husband Sept. 29 at Arlington National Cemetery. We will miss you, Notorious RGB, and we will continue to honor your legacy through our advocacy work and our individual votes! In her own words: "If you want to be a true professional, do something outside yourself."


National Suicide Hotline Designation Act Heads for Presidential Signature into Law

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the bipartisan S. 2661, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, September 22, marking a legislative victory for NASW and its members nationwide who advocated strongly for it.

The bill is an important step to making operational a nationwide three-digit dialing code for mental health crises and suicide prevention: 988. The legislation passed the Senate earlier in 2020 and will now go for signing by President Trump to become law.


National Suicide Prevention Month Resources for September

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, which comes at a critical time this year during the pandemic and national racial reckoning. Thanks to the lobbying of NASW and its mental health allies, preparations continue for the federal government's transition to an easy-to-remember three-digit (988) national suicide hotline, which goes into effect in 2022. Meanwhile, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline remains 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately. More resources are available at

Women's Equality Day

NASW Metro DC Celebrates Women's Equality Day

Women’s Equality Day, celebrated every August 26, commemorates the passage of women’s suffrage in the U.S. and reminds us of the hurdles overcome by the heroic women who faced violence and gender discrimination to propel the women’s movement forward. When we reflect on the long battle to get the 19th Amendment ratified, we cannot ignore the fact that the movement largely excluded Black women. For example, the National American Woman Suffrage Association prevented Black women from attending their conventions. Black women often had to march separately from white women in suffrage parades. To this day, Black voters still face aggressive attacks on hard-fought voting rights. Some jurisdictions are using intimidation or threats to accessibility in order to discourage Black people from voting. Women aren’t done fighting for equal rights. Today, the wage gap between men and women, especially women of color, still impacts women’s economic power, and gender-based discrimination still plagues workplaces and business transactions. Celebrate Women’s Equality Day by registering to vote, helping others register to vote, and advocating for access to absentee ballots and early voting for every election. For ways #socialwokers can play a role in voter turnout either remotely or in-person visit


NASW News Release: Social Workers Must Help Dismantle Systems of Oppression and Fight Racism Within Social Work Profession

What can social workers do to fight systemic racism? NASW has released a more detailed call to action: “Social Workers Must Help Dismantle Systems of Oppression and Fight Racism Within Social Work Profession.” Read the full release here:

Woman with man on telehealth session

NASW Practice Alert on Home Health: Telehealth During COVID-19 and New Payment System

The Medicare home health benefit, which includes medical social services, has long been essential to beneficiaries living with acute, chronic, and advanced health conditions. Access to home health services is of utmost importance during the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. 

A new NASW Practice Alert provides an overview of the Medicare home health benefit, describes NASW’s advocacy on behalf of both home health social workers and beneficiaries served during the COVID-19 pandemic, and clarifies the status of home health social work under the Patient-Driven Groupings Model.

John Lewis

NASW Metro DC Mourns the Death of Civil Rights Leader Rep. John Lewis

NASW Metro DC Chapter members are grieving the death of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), whose leadership and sacrifice led the nation through the early days of the civil rights movement right up until the recent protests against the murder of Black Minneapolis resident George Floyd.

Lewis always said he hoped his legacy would focus around voter rights and voter access, and he spoke often about the need to ensure all Americans—especially people of color—could easily vote. NASW is already involved in voter registration campaigns, coalitions, and advocacy, and social workers in Metro DC will be supporting those efforts. We will miss you and your “good trouble” leadership, Rep. Lewis!

OldWomanTelehealthing (1)

Emergency Telehealth Regs Extended to October 25

Health and Human Services is extending the public health emergency (PHE) period by 90 days—the second announced extension, according to a June 29 HSS tweet by spokesman Michael Caputo. Currently scheduled to expire July 25, the new expiration date is October 25. Telehealth flexibilities under Medicare are attached to this federal PHE. NASW is reaching out to commercial and self-funded plans to advocate for telehealth permanence. Some plans stopped paying for out-of-network telehealth already.


NASW Social Work Talks Podcast Focuses on Successful Telehealth Transitioning, Racism

Recent NASW Social Work Talks podcasts take on both telehealth and racism. You can listen to “Tips for Successfully Implementing Teletherapy” if interested in guidance from Pat Spencer, LCSW, who moved her practice to teletherapy during New Jersey's stay-at-home order.

The "Facing Racism, Moving Forward" episode explores the "racism pandemic" and how the social work profession can advance progress. The recording features insights from Dion Lassiter, MSW, executive director at the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and president of the Black Men at Penn School of Social Work, Inc. at University of Pennsylvania. 

Online CE Institute

NASW Offers TONS of Training Through the Online CE Institute

Looking for training on a specific topic? Need to find a class fast? Want to train from the comfort of your own home or office? The Online CE Institute is a great option, because it offers hundreds of options, many free to members, that can be accessed quickly and easily. To learn more, visit the Online CE Institute here.

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One Supervision Course Remains This Year

As you know, a training to become an approved supervisor for your license is not required in the District. However, consider registering to help you better support your supervisee. NASW Metro DC is offering one more virtual training that will earn you up to 14 CEUs toward relicensing this year.

Full course descriptions of each program are available here. An access code and manual PDF will be sent the day prior to training:

November 13-14: Foundations of Supervision. 14 CEUs. Instructor: Delores Dungee-Anderson, PhD, LCSW CTST, Prof. $275 members, $350 nonmembers. Registration deadline: November 11.

A Welcome Letter from Metro DC Chapter New Executive Director, Debra Riggs

March 2020

Social Work Month is a wonderful time for me both to thank you for your hard work and commitment, and to introduce myself as the new executive director of the Metro Washington Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers!

I’ve been executive director of NASW Virginia for 22 years, but even before my grad school days studying for my social work degree, I have always had a passion for this profession. At university, I worked as a social worker for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Inc., and then later as a case manager in the juvenile justice system.

Since those early-career days, I’ve been in the nonprofit sector for 35-plus years at charitable and trade organizations and now in a professional association as leader of NASW Virginia. Along the way, I earned my Certificate of Association Executive certification, held by less than 10% of U.S. nonprofit leaders, and was given NASW’s 2012 Executive Director of the Year Award.

I strongly believe in collaboration, so I serve on many advisory boards with schools of social work—most currently as chair of Longwood University Advisory Board—and have a soft spot for social work students and professionals just starting out in the field.

However, I’m always happy when March gives me a chance to also give special thanks to our mid-career and longtime social workers, who have served their clients and families for decades under stressful and constantly changing conditions. Thank you, thank you.

March also provides the chance to raise public awareness about America’s fastest-growing profession and the diversity of nearly 800,000 social workers who work within it. Indeed, we influence everyone from babies to older adults, from city dwellers to rural families. Basically, our work touches everyone, everywhere!

The membership of NASW Metro DC reflects this vast diversity—our members work in hospitals, schools, private practice, government agencies, clinics, you name it. But while our work may differ significantly, our core ethics and our commitment to protecting the rights and welfare of our clients unite our specialties, connecting us through our passion to help people and build a more positive, just world. Thank you each again!

I am so pleased with the national theme chosen by NASW this year: ”Social Workers: Generations Strong.” As part of this initiative, I want to recognize and share stories of DC area social workers who are continuing the professional legacies of a parent or other relative. In those cases, a child witnessed and was so inspired by the good work of a loved one that he or she chose to enter the field as well. Please email me at if you are one of these generational legacies—I’d love to hear about and share your journey.

Professional development programming is a strength of mine, and I’m so excited about the possibilities of creating relevant training for NASW Metro DC members. As I enthusiastically take on this new role, I hope that any of you who may be interested in volunteering for a leadership position will email me at driggs.naswDC@socialworkers.orgThe chapter needs your ideas, candor, patience, and engagement to forge a path that best serves the unique needs of DC’s social workers.

Again, thank you for your membership and dedication to your clients and organizations. 

Warm regards,

Debra Riggs, CAE

Executive Director, NASW Metro DC

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