Category Archives: Press

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NYS SOCIAL WORKERS AND STATE LEGISLATORS UNITE AT THE CAPITOL IN FINAL PUSH TO BAN CONVERSION THERAPY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact:
Kania Ponto, MSW
518-463-4741 ext 22
kponto.naswnys@socialworkers.org

 

NYS SOCIAL WORKERS AND STATE LEGISLATORS UNITE AT THE CAPITOL IN FINAL PUSH TO BAN CONVERSION THERAPY
Social Workers Rally to Call for End of Discredited Practice

(Wednesday, April 25, 2018, ALBANY, NY) – Social workers and social work students from across New York State gathered in Albany today to call on the NYS legislature to pass legislation (A.3977/S.263) that would prohibit mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy with patients under the age of 18 for the purpose of changing their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sponsored by the National Association of Social Workers – New York State Chapter, the New York State Association of Deans of Schools of Social Work, and the New York State Social Work Education Association, the rally to ban conversion therapy began at 10:15 AM at the Million Dollar Staircase, with remarks delivered by leaders of the social work community, elected officials including Senator Brad Hoylman, sponsor of NYS bill S.263, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, sponsor of NYS bill A.3977, Assistant Speaker of the Assembly Felix W. Ortiz, and Mathew Shurka, a leading advocate against conversion therapy who has personal experience.

“Conversion therapy is extremely detrimental to the mental health and well-being of LGBT individuals, especially LGBT youth. It has been known to cause depression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior, and suicidal ideation. We must stop this inhumane practice from harming our state’s LGBT children and young adults,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.

“Conversion therapy has been rejected by mental health associations throughout NYS,” said Assemblymember Glick, “It is a dangerous and discredited practice that damages young lives by increasing the chances for depression and suicide and must be banned.”

“The attacks coming from the White House denying dignity and equality for all Americans have heightened the spate of hate speech, bullying, and outright discrimination in our communities and schools. Fear doesn’t change people from gay to straight. It harms everyone,” said Assistant Speaker of the Assembly Félix W. Ortiz.

Conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy,” has never been proven effective by any scientific or empirical evidence and has been widely discredited by many mainstream and mental health organizations. But despite warnings of the practice’s lifelong detrimental consequences, including increased risk of depression, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse, there are practitioners who still conduct this outdated therapy and social workers continue to encounter individuals who have been forcefully subjected to these emotionally scarring interventions.

In a recent study, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimated 20,000 LGTB youths from ages 13 to 17 will undergo conversion therapy from a licensed mental health professional before the age of 18. The same study also found that approximately 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S have received conversion therapy at some point in their lives, including about 350,000 who received it as adolescents.[1]

Mathew Shurka, a national advocate and Advisory Committee Member for National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Born Perfect campaign to end so-called “conversion therapy,” said, “For five years, psychotherapists and other licensed professionals attempted to cure my homosexuality. I was kept estranged from my mother from age 16-19 to ensure that I would not learn effeminate behavior. I was told my attractions were a disease. I spent my adolescence believing that I was disabled and that I was never going to live a ‘normal’ life. I’m only one of out of thousands of conversion therapy survivors that has been able to speak out against this practice, which has had long-term devastating consequences that have taken many, including myself, years to overcome. A recent study estimates that 77,000 more minors will endure so-called conversion therapy in states where it has not been restricted, including New York. I am proud to stand here today and rally alongside social work students across the state to urge New York to become the next state to prohibit so-called ‘conversion therapy’ for minors.”

In February 2016, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a series of regulations to prohibit the coverage by both private and public health insurers from covering the practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ on minors, but New York has yet to enact an outright ban of the practice by providers in the state. To date, six states, including California, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington D.C., have enacted laws or regulations to protect minors from being subjected to conversion therapy by state-licensed mental health providers.

“NASW-NYS has long condemned the use of conversion therapy. The philosophy behind reparative therapies are anathema to the NASW Code of Ethics, oppress people in the LGBTQ community, and represent a practice abhorred by the mental health profession,” said Samantha Howell, Esq., Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers – New York State Chapter. “By making conversion therapy illegal, we are removing any possibility of legitimizing this scientifically discredited and dangerous practice, as well as putting an end to perpetuating the false message that identities that do not subscribe to cis-normative and heteronormative standards are a problem that need to be fixed – or worse, erased.”

Today, social workers are calling on New York to take the next step and pass legislation (A.3977/S.263) that prohibits licensed mental health professionals from engaging in efforts to change a minor’s sexual orientation, and defines such activity as professional misconduct, subjecting the licensed professional to disciplinary action. While the bill has passed in the NYS Assembly for several years in a row, it continues to face hurdles in the upper house.

 

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About 2018 Legislative Education and Advocacy Day (LEAD)

The Legislative Education and Advocacy Day is a legislative event hosted annually by the National Association of Social Workers – New York State (NASW-NYS) Chapter, the New York State Social Work Education Association (NYSSWEA), and the New York State Association of the Deans of Schools of Social Work, that brings hundreds of social work students and professionals to the Capitol. The goal of this event is to further social workers’ knowledge about policy issues in substantive areas of social work practice, teach participants about legislative advocacy, and provide an opportunity for social workers to lobby on behalf of specific legislation.


[1] Christy Mallory, Taylor N.T. Brown, and Keith J. Conron, “Conversion Therapy and LGTBQ Youth”, The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, January 2018 https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Conversion-Therapy-LGBT-Youth-Jan-2018.pdf (accessed March 19, 2018)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: New York State Ends 14-Year Licensure Exemption and Brings State Agencies into Compliance with Licensing Laws

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                     

Media Contact: Kania Ponto, MSW
NASW-NYS
518-463-4741 ext 22
kponto.naswnys@socialworkers.org

 

New York State Ends 14-Year Licensure Exemption and Brings State Agencies into Compliance with Licensing Laws

NYS Social Workers Applaud the Governor and NYS Legislature’s Action to Ensure Equal Access to Quality Care for All New Yorkers

 

(ALBANY, NY, March 30, 2018) — Just moments ago, the legislature passed the Health and Mental Hygiene budget bill, which finally provides a permanent solution to the state’s licensure exemption for those providing mental health services. After many years of battling, the legislation calls for full implementation of the 2002 social work and other licensed mental health provider licensing laws and requires only qualified licensed professionals be the ones to provide diagnosis and treatment of serious mental illness.

The measure effectively ends a 14-year licensure exemption that has allowed seven state agencies (Office of Mental Health (OMH), Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), Office for Children and Family Services (OCFS), Office for the Aging (SOFA), Department of Health (DOH), and Department of Corrections and Community Services (DOCCS)) to hire unlicensed employees to provide mental health services, including diagnosis and treatment of serious mental illnesses, despite not having the same extensive education and external legal standards of professional conduct as licensed professionals.

The measure rightfully ends the exemption while simultaneously guarding against service delivery disruptions as it comprehensively articulates the many areas of practice that do not require a license, such as participation on a multi-disciplinary team, peer services, general information collection and engagement with a client, and general advisement on non-behavioral health issues.

This legislation has garnered strong support from the state’s leading social work organizations, including the New York State and New York City Chapters of the National Association of Social Workers and the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work. Ending this exemption is a strong step toward improving the quality of mental health care for all New Yorkers — regardless of whether they are accessing services through state agencies or private insurance.

“NASW-NYS is thrilled that the Governor and Legislature have finally put a permanent end to the licensure exemption, which allowed unlicensed individuals to provide mental illness diagnosis and treatment,” said Samantha Howell, Esq., Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers – New York State Chapter (NASW-NYS). “We firmly believe in the excellence of our profession and applaud the standards set by the legislature 16 years ago, when it determined to require licensure for social workers. Today, we celebrate the knowledge that all New Yorkers will have access to licensed, appropriately trained and supervised professionals.”

“The underserved clientele that the New York State agencies serve deserve the most qualified licensed professionals to provide treatment and diagnosis,” said Mark Buttiglieri, LCSW-R, President of NASW-NYS. “As an employer of licensed social workers in Central New York, the passage of this exemption bolsters our profession.”

“Why does good social policy take so long? Finally, we are moving toward the same mental health care for all New York citizens independent of their financial means,” said Marsha Wineburgh, DSW, Legislative Chair of the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work (NYSSCSW).

“It is critical that all New Yorkers in need of mental health services be diagnosed by a provider that is licensed to diagnose. This is an issue that is steeped in social justice. This exemption has been on the books for too long, keeping a bifurcated system in place that privileges specific groups over others,” said Candida Brooks-Harrison, LCSW, President of the National Association of Social Workers – New York City Chapter (NASW-NYC). “We thank the Governor and the Legislature for putting equity back in New York’s mental health care.”

 

Ending a 14-Year Tradition of Inequality

In 2002, after more than 28 years of negotiation between the legislature, stakeholder provider groups, and trade associations, the practice of social work became one of the state’s licensed professions. In doing so, a minimum standard of education, experience, and exam requirements were established to ensure that individuals providing mental health services were qualified to do so.

At the time, state agencies alleged that it would be too costly and burdensome to meet the licensing requirement, so an extension was given. Since then, state agencies have continued to receive repeated extensions (the last one passing in the 2015-16 budget), claiming licensed social workers are too expensive and too rare to hire for positions, and arguing many workers would likely be unwilling to invest in the training required to become licensed.

As a result, New Yorkers accessing mental health services through the state (often the most economically disadvantaged and marginalized of our communities) were often left to gamble on whether they would be seen by a qualified mental health practitioner. It created two tiers of care for mental health services, favoring those with insurance and wealth. In addition to devaluing the requirements set forth by law and putting New Yorkers at-risk of being seen by an unlicensed provider, this exemption rendered the professional standards moot.

Currently, the licensure exemption is set to expire on July 1, 2018. Enactment of this statute will commence one year after the New York State Education Department issues the required regulations.

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Leading Social Work Organizations Call on Lawmakers to Ensure Equality of Mental Health Care for All New Yorkers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact:
Kania Ponto, MSW
NASW-NYS
518-463-4741 ext. 22
kponto.naswnys@socialworkers.org

Leading Social Work Organizations Call on Lawmakers to Ensure Equality of Mental Health Care for All New Yorkers

Current licensure exemption allows seven New York State agencies to hire unlicensed employees to provide mental health services

 

(ALBANY, NY, January 9, 2018) – Leaders and partners of New York’s largest social work associations are calling on the Governor and the Legislature to end the licensure exemption that puts many New Yorkers – generally the most vulnerable and low-income – at risk of seeing untrained and under-supervised mental health providers.

 

For nearly 14 years, programs operated, funded, or regulated by seven of the state’s agencies have been exempt from hiring licensed employees to provide mental health services, including the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses, despite the fact that unlicensed employees do not have the same extensive education and external legal standards of professional conduct as licensed practitioners.

 

“The diagnosis and treatment of a severe mental illness requires an educated and experienced clinician, and the current system does not provide that. This is a matter of public safety and equity in care,” said Samantha Howell, Esq., Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers – New York State Chapter (NASW-NYS). “Unlicensed providers should not be diagnosing and providing treatment, and the State should not stand idly by as this bifurcated system of care impacts those most in need of support and treatment.”

 

Representatives from the National Association of Social Workers – New York State and New York City Chapters, the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work, and Health Assets Management, Inc. converged upon Albany today to urge the state to end this bifurcated system of care by holding agencies accountable to the 2002 social work licensing law.

 

In 2002, after more than 28 years of negotiation between the legislature, stakeholder provider groups, and trade associations, the practice of social work became one of the state’s licensed professions. In doing so, a minimum standard of education, experience, and exam requirements was established to ensure that individuals providing mental health services were qualified to do so.

 

“Without proper education and supervised experience in preparation for clinical licensing, it is unlikely that, given the complexity of mental illness, a cost-effective diagnosis, treatment plan, and appropriate implementation can be delivered. It’s time for these state agencies to come into compliance,” said Ross McCabe of the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work.

 

At the time, state agencies alleged that it would be too costly and burdensome to meet the licensing requirement, so an extension was given. Since then, state agencies have continued to receive repeated extensions – claiming licensed social workers are too expensive and too rare to hire for positions, and arguing many workers would likely be unwilling to invest in the training required to become licensed.

 

Exempt agencies include: Office of Mental Health (OMH), Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), Office for Children and Family Services (OCFS), Office for the Aging (SOFA), Department of Health (DOH), and Department of Corrections and Community Services (DOCCS).

 

In his 2018 State of the State address, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called for a continued investment in the state’s healthcare, stating, “…in New York, healthcare is not just for the rich, it’s a human right.” Mental health is a vital part of any comprehensive healthcare system, and like all other healthcare services, it requires trained and licensed professionals. Social workers share a fundamental belief in equality and access to care, regardless of socioeconomic background, and are specifically trained to provide and ensure access to high-quality services.

 

“If we were talking about a heart condition or a broken arm, it would be considered malpractice for an unqualified individual to make a diagnosis,” said Carmel L. Gold, president and CEO, Health Assets Management Inc. “It is critical that every person in need of mental health and child welfare services be diagnosed by a provider who is licensed to diagnose – not just those who can afford better care and not just those who seek care from exempt agencies and who are ‘lucky’ enough to see a licensed provider on their day of diagnosis.”

 

“The NYS Association of Deans of Schools of Social work calls upon both houses of the Legislature to take the steps necessary to end the exemption from social work licensing now. We care deeply about ensuring that all consumers seeking mental health services are seen by a qualified professional social worker, not just those with private insurance,” said Dr. Victoria Rizzo, representing the New York State Association of Deans of Schools of Social Work.

 

New York State has some of the most stringent licensing requirements and professional standards for social work in the country: licensed clinical social workers must go through extensive training that unlicensed professionals do not, including having a master’s degree in social work, passing several licensing examinations, and spending three years under the supervision of a licensed clinical social worker.

Currently, agencies have until July 1, 2018, to comply with the licensing requirements passed in 2002.

 

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About the Social Work Investment Initiative

The Social Work Investment Initiative is a legislative initiative introduced by the National Association of Social Workers – New York State (NASW-NYS) Chapter, in collaboration with the National Association of Social Workers – New York City (NASW-NYC) Chapter, the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work (NYSSCSW), and the New York State Association of Deans of Schools of Social Work, that seeks to secure a substantial state investment into the social work profession, specifically in settings operated, funded, or regulated by the state agencies. This legislative initiative will be tied to the resolution of the licensure exemption and move state agencies to come into compliance with the 2002 social work licensing law.

 

NASW-NYS launches #InvestinSocialWork advocacy campaign

 
 


 

For nearly 14 years, state agencies have been exempt from hiring licensed employees. Programs operated, funded, or regulated by seven of the state’s agencies claim that unlicensed employees are qualified, despite the fact that these employees are not required to have the same extensive education and external legal standards of professional conduct as licensed practitioners. Currently, state agencies have until July 1, 2018, to comply with the licensing requirements passed in 2002.

 

Exempt agencies include:

  • Office of Mental Health (OMH)
  • Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)
  • Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS)
  • Office for Children and Family Services (OCFS)
  • Office for the Aging (SOFA)
  • Department of Health (DOH)
  • Department of Corrections and Community Services (DOCCS)

 

In December 2017, NASW-NYS launched the #InvestinSocialWork campaign, a public awareness and advocacy campaign that seeks to end the licensure exemption and implement the Social Work Investment Initiative. We are counting on our members to join in our advocacy efforts. 

 

What is #InvestinSocialWork?

#InvestinSocialWork is a public awareness campaign established in December 2017, that seeks to end the licensure exemption and implement the Social Work Investment Initiative, a legislative initiative that seeks to secure a substantial state investment into the social work profession, in the context of this year’s legislative budget. This campaign is led by NASW-NYS, and campaign supporters include the state’s leading social work organizations.

 

What is the Social Work Investment Initiative?

 

The Social Work Investment Initiative (SWII) is a legislative initiative that seeks to secure a substantial state investment into the social work profession. Specifically, it demands:

  1. Full implementation of the state’s 2002 social work licensure law
  2. $4 million Loan Forgiveness Program for Social Workers specifically working in a currently exempt setting
  3. $18 million incentive program for currently exempt agencies to increase the number of licensed social workers available to provide supervision
  4. $500,000 for the development and distribution of culturally sensitive and ESL test preparation to assist those who are vulnerable to, or have already, failed the LMSW and LCSW exams
  5. $250,000 for the development and implementation of a workforce survey to assist in tracking and identifying workforce gaps

 

What is the urgency?

The social work licensure law was passed in 2002 and has been in effect since 2004. That is a 14-year time period for State agencies to come into compliance – which is more than enough time. For comparison: When Connecticut enacted its 1995 licensure law, both private sector and public-sector agencies were given one year to comply. If we are unsuccessful, the exemption could continue, which would render the professional standards outlined by a social work license null and void. Your experience is valuable, and we need to end the exemption.

 

How do I get involved?

  • Watch and share the Social Work Investment Initiative 101 video to your social work friends and colleagues: https://youtu.be/E5KHX-feYos
  • Visit and bookmark the #InvestinSocialWork webpage: www.naswnys.org/invest. This website contains an Social Work Investment Initiative toolkit, social media graphics, and up-to-date information and resources to assist with your advocacy
  • Save the Date: The first Social Work Investment Initiative Call-in Day takes place on Tuesday, January 9, 2018. Call your legislators and ask them to end the licensure exemption and support enactment of the Social Work Investment Initiative
  • Like, tweet, and share #InvestinSocialWork. Help us spread the word!

 

It’s time for the state to invest in our profession, invest in our communities, and end the exemption.

It’s time to invest in social work.

 

 

 
 

Leading Social Work Organizations in New York State Applaud New York City Council’s Vote to Ban Conversion Therapy

CONTACT: Kania Ponto, MSW
Communications Associate, NASW-NYS
518-463-4741 ext. 22
kania.ponto@naswnys.org

Leading Social Work Organizations in New York State Applaud New York City Council’s Vote to Ban Conversion Therapy

(ALBANY, NY, December 4, 2017) — Leaders of the National Association of Social Workers – New York State (NASW-NYS) and New York City (NASW-NYC) Chapters and the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work (NYSSCSW) commends the New York City Council’s recent vote to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’, a practice that has been discredited and denounced by every major health and mental health professions. The Council passed a bill barring anyone from charging a fee for so-called therapies that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

“NASW-NYS has long condemned the use of conversion therapy and applauds the New York City Council on its vote,” said Samantha Howell, Esq., Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers – New York State Chapter. “The philosophy behind reparative therapies are anathema to the NASW Code of Ethics, oppress people in the LGBTQ community, and represent a practice abhorred by the mental health profession. We hope the State will take notice and at least pass legislation banning licensed mental health providers from engaging in such practices.”

“As social workers, we are committed to human rights across race, diversity, and intersectionality, which means the right to be. Sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), including conversion therapy, is diametrically opposed to this right as its goal is to change a part of another human being’s very identity. We view conversion therapies as part of systemic oppression against the LGTBQ community,” said Candida Brooks-Harrison, LCSW, President of the National Association of Social Workers – New York City (NASW-NYC) Chapter, stressing the need for statutory prohibition.

“Every person has the right to explore and discover their own sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Ross McCabe, representing the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work. “It is a natural process of human development; being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is not an illness, disease, or short coming and should not be treated as such. So-called ‘conversion therapy’ perpetuates false and unscientific views to the public, particularly to our youth of needing treatment or a cure.”

New York City joins a growing number of municipalities passing statutes to end the practice. In February 2016, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a series of regulations to prohibit the coverage by both private and public health insurers from covering the practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ on minors, but New York has yet to enact an outright ban of the practice by providers in the state.

To date, six states, including California, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington D.C., have enacted laws or regulations to protect minors from being subjected to conversion therapy by state-licensed mental health providers. In New York, there is continued push for passage of legislation that would prohibit mental health professionals from engaging in efforts to change a minor’s sexual orientation, gender expression, and/or gender identity. While the bill has passed the NY Assembly for several years in a row, it continues to face hurdles in the upper house.

Conversion therapy, also often known as ‘reparative therapy’, has never been proven effective by any scientific or empirical evidence. Every mainstream medical and mental health organizations have repudiated the efficacy of conversion therapy, citing the growing evidence of harm and long term detrimental consequences, including increased risk of depression, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse. But despite this, some practitioners continue to conduct conversion therapy.

The National Association of Social Workers – New York State and New York City Chapters and the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work will continue to urge the state legislature for a statewide ban practice of conversion therapy on minors. The aforementioned associations are committed to protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community and to preserve the dignity and diversity of all New Yorkers.

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About National Association of Social Workers – New York State Chapter

The National Association of Social Workers – New York State Chapter (NASW-NYS) is a membership organization of professional social workers, one of the largest chapters of NASW in the United States with over 7,500 members. NASW-NYS works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies.

About National Association of Social Workers – New York City Chapter

The New York City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-NYC) is one of the largest chapters of NASW in the country. Founded in 1955, NASW-NYC represents professional social workers
who are working throughout the five boroughs, primarily in public and non-profit organizations. Social workers are also in private practice and in other for-profit service related settings.

About New York State Society for Clinical Social Work

New York State Society for Clinical Social Work (NYSSCSW) represents a community of highly trained clinicians committed to maintaining standards of professional education and practice in clinical social work psychotherapy in New York State.