Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Report Website Abuse   |   Sign In   |   Join NASW
Search
2007-2008 Legislative Testimony

The following are examples of legislative testimony provided on behalf of NASW-MA during the 2007-2008 legislative session:

  • An Act to Improve Access to Mental Health Services HB 1873
    Carol Trust, October 2007
    (READ TESTIMONY)

  • An Act to Establish Comprehensive Mental Health Parity HB 1871
    Carol Trust, October 2007
    (READ TESTIMONY)

  • Public Safety Act of 2007 (CORI Reform) HB 1416
    Rebekah Gewirtz, September 2007
    (READ TESTIMONY)

  • An Act Strengthening Health Reform HB 1166, SB 661
    Rebekah Gewirtz, July 2007
    (READ TESTIMONY)

  • An Act Strengthening Health Reform HB 1166, SB 661
    Massachusetts General Hospital Social Workers, July 2007
    (READ TESTIMONY)

  • Loan Forgiveness for Social Workers HB 1191 (Redrafted as HB4914)
    Carol Trust, June 2007
    (READ TESTIMONY)

  • An Act Relative to Responsible Welfare Reform HB 85
    Rebekah Gewirtz, May 2007
    (READ TESTIMONY)

  • An Act Relative to Training for Law Enforcement in Dealing with Individuals Suffering from Mental Illness SB 1378
    Rebekah Gewirtz, April 2007
    (READ TESTIMONY)

An Act to Improve Access to Mental Health Services (HB 1873)

October 1, 2007
Carol Trust

Testimony in support of HB 1873: An Act to Improve Access to Mental Health Services

Dear Chairwomen Balser and Candaras and Members of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse:

The National Association of Social Workers, MA Chapter is in support of House Bill 1873, An Act to Improve Access to Mental Health Services. This bill would prevent the use of non-competition agreements that restrict the geographic employment of social workers in Massachusetts.

By statute, Massachusetts bars the use of non-competition agreements to restrict the employment of physicians, nurses, and psychologists; and the Supreme Judicial Court has barred the use of non-competition agreements to restrict the employment of lawyers. The rationale for these prohibitions on restrictive covenants is that such restrictions on employment interfere with the public’s access to legal and medical services.

There are no such protections in place for social workers. Passage of this legislation would provide this protection.

Additionally, employers are generally able to use non-competition agreements to protect two interests: (1) confidential, proprietary information; and (2) good will. Massachusetts courts will not enforce non-competition agreements that are designed solely to restrict competition, when confidential information and good will are not at stake. Although there are already common law and statutory restrictions on an employee’s use of trade secret information (e.g., M.G.L. c. 93, § 42), written non-competition agreements are the norm today in some industries. One might expect to see non-competition agreements used to protect trade secret information in high technology companies, and to protect good will in highly competitive sales environments. However, such non-competition agreements in the social services industry are not appropriate and is demonstrated by their prohibition in the case of physicians, nurses and psychologists.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony. We ask that you favorably report this bill from committee as soon as possible.

Thank you,

Carol J. Trust, LICSW
Executive Director, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

An Act to Establish Comprehensive Mental Health Parity (HB 1871)

October 1, 2007
Carol Trust

Testimony in support of House 1871: An Act to Establish Comprehensive Mental Health Parity

Dear Chairwomen Candaras and Balser and Members of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse:

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers – MA Chapter, we would like to express our strong support for House Bill 1871. This legislation amends the Mental Health Parity Act of 2000 to include all disorders that are listed in the DC: 0-3R, DSM, and the International Code of Disease (ICD). House Bill 1871 establishes comprehensive mental health parity by requiring insurance companies to remove the distinction between "biologically based" and "non-biologically based" disorders. It further obligates insurance companies to provide coverage for all mental health conditions to the same degree that all other medical conditions are covered.

Social workers provide mental health services for individuals who suffer from varying types of cognitive and behavioral disorders and we do not believe the quantity or quality of care should be limited by an arbitrary distinction of "biological basis." This inequity has limited the amount of insurance coverage available for the treatment of substance abuse, eating disorders, post traumatic disorder, and a multitude of other disorders which are all serious ailments requiring mental health services. Denying services to people afflicted with these disorders because of arbitrary distinctions used by insurance companies significantly impacts the overall well-being and safety of these patients.

The mental health disorders addressed by this bill are varied and complex and they often affect many of our most vulnerable populations: children and youth, returning veterans and traumatized victims. For example, veterans often suffer from Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) a debilitating disease that is not widely enough acknowledged, diagnosed, or treated.

We support House Bill 1871 because it would require health insurance companies to provide coverage or access to metal health services and remove the barrier of gaining treatment based on the flawed designation of mental illnesses as "non-biological." Implementing these changes to current legislation is an important first step in ensuring comprehensive access to health care for all of the citizens of the Commonwealth.

Thank you,

Carol J. Trust, LICSW
Executive Director, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

Public Safety Act of 2007 (HB 1416) (CORI Reform)

September 18, 2007
Rebekah Gewirtz

Testimony in support of Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Reform in House Bill 1416, the Public Safety Act of 2007

Joint Committee on the Judiciary
State House, Room 136
Boston, MA 02133

Dear Chairman Creedon and O’Flaherty and Members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary:

Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to testify before your committee. I offer testimony today on behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, MA Chapter the largest social work organization in the Commonwealth with 8,300 members. NASW has prioritized HB 1416, the Public Safety Act of 2007, this legislative session for a variety of reasons.

The last decades of the last century have brought great increases in the numbers of persons and families who have experienced arrest, criminal proceedings, and incarceration. In response, NASW and the NASW committee on Criminal Justice have held three successful educational conferences about aspects of what we see as the harmful criminalization of the mentally ill and addicted. Concern about this problem underpins our support for expansion of jail diversion programs for the mentally ill and current legislation for increased diversion to treatment of addicted low level drug offenders. We also urge better mental health services in the Department of Correction and an end to isolated forms of confinement that exacerbate mental distress and can trigger the tragedy of suicide.

Starting in the spring of 2005, conversations concerning the newly-developed PSA bill brought the NASW Criminal Justice committee into greater contact with social workers across the state working in the criminal justice field. That experience showed us that a larger number of social workers than we had even realized were concerned about the CORI system and barriers to rehabilitation among clients whom they serve. Concerns ranged from the following:

  • Years of imprisonment in correctional institutions that still have not implemented recommendations of the Harshbarger Commission and subsequent DOC Advisory Committee reports;

  • Rigid laws and regulations that result in too many non-violent persons having no opportunity to prepare for and present their case for release on parole; and

  • Problems getting jobs and housing when back in the community due to widespread use of CORI records.

NASW joins others in supporting the CORI system reforms in the PSA that will purge some records of adults and juveniles, shorten the periods now provided before records can be sealed, provide training for users of the records, give an option to include a certificate of rehabilitation in CORI records, create a procedure for sealing of records of non-convictions, limit access of non-criminal justice entities to only records of convictions and open cases, and require that prospective employers get CORI records only for those they are seriously considering hiring and that they give candidates a chance to discuss their criminal history. Additionally, NASW strongly supports the provision in the PSA that gives parole eligibility to those who have served 2/3 of drug mandatory minimum sentences.

In short, the PSA is stock full of changes that are needed to make our criminal justice system fair and equitable. We respectfully request the committee report the bill favorably from committee as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Rebekah Gewirtz
Director of Government Relations and Political Action, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

An Act Strengthening Health Reform (HB 1166, SB 661)

July 18, 2007
Rebekah Gewirtz

Testimony in support of House Bill 1166 and Senate Bill 661: An Act Strengthening Health Reform

Dear Members of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing:

The National Association of Social Workers, MA Chapter is in support of An Act Strengthening Health Reform. In particular, we are concerned about protecting those with moderate income right above the cut-off for Commonwealth Care and the potentially unaffordable premiums they must pay. We know the success of health reform depends on government, individuals and employers contributing toward the goal of expanding access to affordable, quality coverage. Unfortunately, responsibility is not equally shared now. The state and individuals are shouldering major burdens, while relatively little is expected of employers. Passing this legislation will change the definition of "Fair and Reasonable” raising the minimum employer coverage requiring 50% employer contribution and 50% employee participation.

There are several other areas where we think the landmark health reform bill should be reformed. In particular, we believe dental coverage in Phase II Plans under Commonwealth Care should be included since oral health is a critical component of overall health; tobacco cessation should be included under MassHealth; and lifetime benefit caps should not be allowed in creditable plans.

The purpose of the MCC standard is to ensure that the insurance people are required to purchase is adequate coverage of their health care needs. Plans that include lifetime caps do not meet this standard leaving people without coverage for their catastrophic health care needs. This puts people often in dire situations at risk of facing financial ruin and/or barriers to care when their coverage runs out.

Finally, MassHealth should not charge certain premiums to children whose parent is enrolled in the Commonwealth Care program. We appreciate the administration’s decision to establish a family premium cap and we hope this decision is codified through passage of this legislation. Doing this will help some 30,000 families who would otherwise have to spend in excess of the affordability standards established by the Connector to cover their family.

Our members are concerned that people already in difficult financial situations should not face a double burden of illness and inadequate health care coverage. It’s important that the legislature pass this bill to make our landmark health care bill truly equitable and truly beneficial to all of the residents of the Commonwealth. We urge you to pass this legislation favorably from committee.

Rebekah Gewirtz
Director of Government Relations and Political Action, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

An Act Strengthening Health Reform (HB 1166, SB 661)

July 18, 2007
Massachusetts General Hospital Social Workers

Testimony in support of Senate Bill 661: An Act Strengthening Health Reform, and House Bill 1166: An Act Strengthening Health Reform

Dear Members of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing:

We are a group of concerned staff in the Social Service Department at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston (though we are not speaking on behalf of the Department).

We first want to acknowledge the great effort, creativity, cooperation and vision that went into establishing Massachusetts’ Health Reform. We are excited and grateful about the help it has offered so many already and its great potential. We are also concerned, however, that the promise of Health Reform is in danger of failure if more isn’t done to protect those with moderate income. Among this group we are concerned for our patients, but also for employees like ourselves, but without our access to affordable health care coverage. We support S. 661 and H.1166 the Act(s) Strengthening Health Reform, and urge you to as well.

Affordability (§ 16) – It is easy to forget that what seems like a relatively small amount of money may actually loom quite large for someone with a low or moderate income. We are most concerned with the welfare of those just above the cut-off for Commonwealth Care, and those who might earn a bit more, but have other factors such as age and geography that make the Commonwealth Choice premiums out of reach. We have seen many heartbreaking situations where people have been forced to choose between options that are bad and worse because of lack of coverage or inadequate coverage. Those without coverage frequently delay seeking care until they have no choice and then are facing more serious illnesses that require more extensive and expensive care. We all end up paying and as a society we lose their productivity.

Including Dental Coverage in Phase II Plans under Commonwealth Care (§§ 4 & 5) – It is not uncommon for patients to need significant dental work before surgery, particularly heart surgery, can be performed. Often patients have that done in the hospital before surgery can proceed- delaying their surgery and putting them at risk that could have been avoided had they had better access to affordable preventative dental care. We applaud the recent reinstatement of dental coverage under MassHealth. We saw many cases where people were unable to access preventative care or moderate repairs, and were told that when it gets to the point where they need an extraction that would be covered. People were left with no teeth and no possibility of getting caps or dentures. This can’t be good for one’s health, or for that matter one’s prospects of getting many jobs.

Tobacco Cessation Under MassHealth (§§ 6& 7) – Not surprisingly, we see many patients, young and old alike, for whom tobacco use is the underlying cause of their medical problems. We’ve seen people as young as 30 years old who’ve suffered a stroke where tobacco use was a contributing factor. It seems obvious that smoking cessation services must be included in any comprehensive health reform plan.

Medically Necessary Ambulance coverage under Commonwealth Care (§§ 4 & 5)– It is not uncommon to have a situation that is not an emergency, but does require an ambulance. The most common situations are when patients have a medical condition, often a complication of their disease or treatment, that requires them to remain prone, or that leaves them weakened such that they can’t manage the stairs into/out of their homes. When these patients require chemotherapy or dialysis for example, there are no community resources that can transport them other than an ambulance.

Lifetime Benefit Caps should not be allowed in creditable plans (§ 13A).Transplant patients are good examples of ongoing expenses that can be ruinous if there is a cap in place. Though transplant is often viewed as "curative” some say it should be viewed more accurately as trading one set of problems for another. One colleague worked with a patient in his 50s who had a liver transplant and was able to return to work, albeit in a limited capacity. After a period successful work he lost his Medicare. Sounds like a success. The convenience store where he worked, however, did not offer health coverage. He would be a candidate for Commonwealth Care or Choice, but how would he afford the anti-rejection, immune-suppressant drugs (that can be hugely expensive) that he needs for the rest of his life if subject to a lifetime cap? Would denying him this coverage be in effect a penalty for trying to return to productive work? Might he end up back on disability and Medicare?

We as social workers and other social service staff must bear daily witness to the humiliation, fear, anguish, helplessness and hopelessness that patients and their families experience when facing the double burden of illness and inadequate health care coverage. At the moment when we most need to marshal our energies to fight and recover from illness or loss is when the stress from inadequate coverage is most acute. We recognize the potential of Massachusetts’ Health Reform to ensure a basic level of fairness in what should be a universal right to health care. We again urge you to support these bills as a key step in realizing that promise. Thank you.

Respectfully,

Corinne Castro, MSW
Ellen Forman, MSW
Samantha Gallant, BA
Maria LodDuca, MSW
Mary Zwirner, MSW

Loan Forgiveness for Social Workers (HB 1191)

June 5, 2007
Carol Trust

Testimony in support of House Bill 1191: Loan Forgiveness for Social Workers

Dear Chairmen Murphy and O’Leary and members of the Joint Committee on Higher Education:

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, MA Chapter, a professional membership association of 8,300 social workers across the state, I would like to express our strong support for our top priority bill this legislative session, House Bill 1191. This bill establishes a loan forgiveness program for social workers in underserved areas including those working with vulnerable children and the elderly. The program would be administered by the Board of Higher Education. Passage of this bill will provide an incentive for qualified and skilled people to go into and continue in the field of social work.

Social workers are on society’s front lines, protecting vulnerable children, elders, the disabled, and people living in poverty. As the cost of higher education has soared, along with the cost of living, becoming a social worker in Massachusetts has become less realistic for many people. In a 2006 report released by the National Association of Social Workers Center for Workforce Studies, three issue areas were identified as major challenges to the profession of social work:

  1. Replacing the large number of social workers about to retire (the average age of social workers in Massachusetts is 55)

  2. Recruiting new social workers, especially men and people of color

  3. Retaining the current workforce in an increasingly stressful environment.

Indeed, the study concludes that social workers are experiencing greater work stress, less job security, declining levels of supervision and training, and decreases in compensation. As a result of this the question becomes: How are committed and qualified people expected to go into this profession when there is a daunting reality of looming debt upon graduation from social work school?

Additionally, according to recent NASW studies, social work salaries are amongst the lowest for professionals and in particular for those with a master’s degree. The median salary for beginning master’s level social workers with 2-4 years of experience is $35,6001. In Massachusetts, the average social work student graduates from a BSW program with a debt of $24,809 and from an MSW program with a debt of $42,9802. In many cases this can lead to monthly payments of more than $350 or $400. These significant levels of debt dissuade qualified students from staying in the field.

A 2006 analysis by the Public Interest Research Group showed that 37 percent of public college and 55 percent of private college graduates have unmanageable debt as a starting social worker3.

At NASW, we believe government has a role to play in ensuring that qualified and educated professionals enter the field of social work and stay in that field once they are trained. Indeed, several other states have recognized the critical importance of creating loan forgiveness programs for social workers. Some examples include New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and California. Creating a loan forgiveness program in Massachusetts is a critical first step in making a career in social work an affordable option here in the Commonwealth for those who wish to pursue this important line of work.

Today you will hear testimony from Deans and Directors of schools of social work across the state, from students who are experiencing unmanageable debt, and from professional social workers some of whom have struggled with debt for years. As you deliberate on these stories, remember there is something you can do to ease the burden; the answer is to pass HB1191, creating a long overdue loan forgiveness program for some of the most hard working and undervalued people in society today: social workers.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony.

Carol J. Trust, LICSW
Executive Director, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

1 NASW Practice Research Network, Social Work Income, PRN 2:1, 2003
2 Council of Social Work Education Annual Survey (2004); Compiled by NASW, May 2005
3 Paying Back, Not Giving Back: Student Debt’s Negative Impact on Public Service Career Opportunities, The State PIRGs’ Higher Education Project, April 2006

An Act Relative to Responsible Welfare Reform (HB 85)

May 2007
Rebekah Gewirtz

Testimony in support of House Bill 85: An Act Relative to Responsible Welfare Reform

To the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities:

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers - Massachusetts Chapter (NASW), a membership organization of 8,300 Social Workers across the state, I would like to convey strong support for House Bill 85, An Act Relative to Responsible Welfare Reform. We commend the legislature for advancing a version of this bill in the last session. NASW has prioritized this bill because our members recognize the need to amend state law to comply with federal requirements while at the same time being sensitive to the needs of the poorest citizens in the state.

Specifically, HB85 will preserve existing protections from onerous work requirements and the short, 24-month time limit for our most vulnerable parents and their children, including those who have been found to meet the current state disability standard, those who are caring for a disabled family member, those in their last trimester of pregnancy, teen parents, and others with very young children, while increasing required work hours for others.

The following provisions of the bill are directly in line with the core mission and values of NASW and I would like to take a moment to highlight them. Passage of HB 85 will:

  • Improve services to those who are exempt from work requirements and time limits by instituting a new system of "family well-being plans," using the state's disability agencies to design and oversee such plans for those with disabilities.

  • Improve the "earnings disregard" rules so that very low-income working families can qualify for small cash assistance supplements and so that those with barriers to employment receive the same incentives to work as do others.

  • Expressly prohibit "full family sanctions" which cause great harm to innocent children in both the shorter and longer terms.

This last point is very important. Based on the experience of our members who work with very low income people, those families impacted by full family sanctions experience adverse health and wellbeing consequences for their children. Children should not be punished for the circumstances into which they were born and the state must be sure they are protected in their homes. Expressly prohibiting full family sanctions, which also disproportionately impact homes where the primary bread winner is disabled, is a critical component of this bill.

Ultimately, the state needs to make various adjustments to its TAFDC program and the adjustments proposed in this legislation are consistent with the values of NASW. We strongly support this measure and urge you to report it out of committee favorably.

Rebekah Gewirtz
Director of Government Relations and Political Action, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

An Act Relative to Training for Law Enforcement in Dealing with Individuals Suffering from Mental Illness (SB 1378)

April 25, 2007
Rebekah Gewirtz

Testimony in support of Senate Bill 1378: An Act Relative to Training for Law Enforcement in Dealing with Individuals Suffering from Mental Illness

Dear Chairmen Barrios and Costello and Members of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security:

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, MA Chapter, we would like to express our support for Senate Bill 1378. This bill would ensure that professionals in law enforcement receive the proper training in techniques for working with people suffering from a range of mental illnesses and disabilities.

In their daily work, police officers often encounter persons with a mental illness or other intellectual disability. Due to the nature of their condition, these people may react or behave in a manner that may seem unpredictable or unfamiliar to the officer. This lack of understanding or communication can make it difficult for the officer to properly respond to such situations.

Proper training, which has been successfully implemented in at least sixteen other states, would allow police officers to better understand and communicate with victims, witnesses or suspects dealing with a mental disability. This would increase safety for both the officer and the individual involved.

As an advocacy organization representing 8,300 social workers across the state, many of whom specialize in mental illness and disability, we believe passage of this bill is necessary as it provides for critical training for law enforcement personnel. We urge you to report this legislation favorably from the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony.

Rebekah Gewirtz
Director of Government Relations and Political Action, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

< BACK TO 2007-2008 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

National Association of Social Workers - Massachusetts Chapter
14 Beacon Street, Suite 409, Boston MA 02108
tel: (617)227-9635 fax: (617)227-9877 email: chapter@naswma.org
Copyright 2001, NASWMA. All rights reserved.

Membership Management Software Powered by YourMembership.com®  ::  Legal