Social Workers for Justice New York applauded the NASW-NYS vote to support A5291/S5975, the Social Work Workforce Act

Following the launch of A5291/S5975, the Social Work Workforce Act, Social Workers for Justice New York applauded the vote of the National Association of Social Workers – NYS Chapter (NASW-NYS) to support the legislation and the repeal of the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) exam requirement. The vote by the Board of Directors occurred on Thursday, October 19th. The National Association of Social Workers (national HQ) endorsed this in February of this year.

Shortly after the bill gained the support of NASW-NYS’ 6500 members, Assembly Committee on Mental Health Chair, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, co-sponsored the legislation. The bill is currently carried in the New York State Senate by Senator Samra Brouk who chairs the Senate Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. It is also co-sponsored by two social workers in the Assembly, Chantel Jackson, LMSW and Manny De Los Santos, MSW.

Many social workers face challenges receiving their Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) certification due to the requirement of passing the Association of Social Work Board (ASWB) Exam. A 2022 ASWB Exam Pass Rate Analysis showed that from 2018 to 2021 only 51.9% of Black social workers and 71.2% of Latino social workers eventually pass the exam compared to 90.8% of white social workers. This standardized exam has resulted in fewer bilingual social workers, older social workers, and social workers of color entering the workforce to meet the service needs of New Yorkers. The exam has also been blocking older social workers from becoming licensed as well with the analysis finding that only 61.6% of social workers who are above the age of 50 eventually pass the exam compared to 85.7% of social workers who are between the ages of 18 and 29. Finally, the exam also found bias when examining the first language of social workers who were taking the exam. Sixty-three percent of social workers for whom their first language was another language other than English eventually passed the exam compared to 80% of social workers for whom their first language is English.

According to a survey by the National Deans and Directors of Social Work (NADD) there are now 18 states that are working on eliminating the entry level, or LMSW requirements (not including several states that do not have such a requirement such as California and Michigan) and 10 states working on a second pathway for the LCSW requirement. The professional association and legislators called for the swift passage of the legislation and highlighted that it would increase the workforce of mental health providers in the state at a critical time when a mental health epidemic is severely impacting New Yorkers.

Quotes: “Social Workers for Justice is pleased and grateful that NASW-NYS has joined the campaign to change the entry level licensure for social workers.  With their vote, they live our most important values to expand and diversify our workforce and serve the diverse communities of New York State.  We applaud their leadership for taking this crucial stand and we welcome the partnership,” said Jacqueline Mondros, Executive Director of Social Workers for Justice New York.  

“NASW NYS strongly supports the elimination of the entry level exam as a requirement for licensure.  We lose too many diverse and experienced social workers who are urgently needed on the front lines of homeless services, recovery, and mental health to an exam that has not a scintilla of evidence of its effectiveness.  We intend to bring the full force of our large state membership to challenge this unnecessary obstacle.”  Victoria Rizzo, President of the National Association of Social Workers – NYS Chapter  

“In a time when countless families across our state are struggling to access mental health care, we must take action to ensure that those who want to enter this workforce have the support they need to have successful careers. The Social Work Workforce Act will repeal the unnecessary requirement of the licensing exam, which has disproportionately barred Black, Brown, and older test takers from receiving their license—despite graduating from accredited Masters’ programs. By passing our bill, New York would be joining a number of other states who have already repealed this testing requirement, who then saw thousands of social workers enter their workforce and create immediate impact in their communities. I look forward to working with Assemblymember González-Rojas, and advocates across the state to ensure that New Yorkers can access the quality, culturally competent care they deserve,” said Senator Samra Brouk, Chair of the Senate Committee on Mental Health and prime sponsor of the Social Work Workforce Act. 

“New York State needs more Social Workers ready to take on the enormous challenge we face in providing residents with the mental health services they need and deserve. This legislation, when signed into law, will increase the number of Social Workers ready to take on this challenge, while also increasing the numbers of those who come from and represent underserved communities across our state,” said Assembly Member Aileen Gunther, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Mental Health. 

Join us in our advocacy efforts! Sign the petition to expand, include, and diversify the social work workforce to meet the current crises we face in homelessness, youth mental health, addiction, and immigration by passing the Social Work Workforce Act (House bill A05291 and Senate bill S5975). Click here to access the petition!

Press Contacts:
Olivia Knox, NASW-NYS Policy Coordinator,
Jacqueline Mondros, Interim Executive Director of SW4JNY,

Amelia Lochner Malavé
Author: Amelia Lochner Malavé