National Social Work Month, observed throughout March, uplifts social workers and celebrates their constant contributions to our society. This year’s theme, “Social Work Breaks Barriers,” highlights the innovative ways in which social workers help enrich and empower people in our communities to overcome challenges so they can live to their fullest potential.
Social Workers strive every day to improve many people’s quality of life and advocate on their behalf. Each day social workers help break down barriers that prevent people from living more fulfilling, enriched lives. They often work on the individual level, helping people overcome personal crises like food insecurity, lack of affordable housing or limited access to good health care. They also advocate on a systems level to ensure laws and policies are adopted so everyone can access services.
For decades, our DHEC social workers have helped our clients, customers and communities across the state overcome barriers that prevent people and communities from thriving.
Here are just a few examples of how our social workers are breaking barriers:
- Social workers help make resources and services easier to access. McColloch Salehi, Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), social worker and vaccine recruiter for the Immunizations Division, says that the Vaccines for Children provider map breaks access barriers by making it easier for parents to find providers of low and no-cost vaccination services near them!
- Social Workers break through barriers that prevent people from accessing care due to lack of transportation. Midlands region social worker, Brittaney Desjardins, Doctor of Behavioral Health, LMSW, often refers individuals to CAN Community Health in Columbia, which offers Ubers for transportation assistance. They also have mental health services, on-site (next door) pharmacy and primary care. So while the client may be primarily presenting for HIV care, they can also get mental health care and pick up their meds all at the same time. The “one-stop shop” approach is super effective for clients with limited resources to obtain care.
- As a social worker for the Lowcountry Children & Youth with Special Health Care Needs program, Hannah Eaton, LMSW, works to address barriers to communication that are frequently encountered among children who are deaf or hard of hearing. She does this by providing tools for clearer communication between the child with hearing assistance needs and those who are important in their day-to-day life. This could look like ensuring the child has preferential seating and a frequency modulated system at school, that the parents and siblings of the child get support in learning American Sign Language (ASL) or even updating a child’s hearing assistance technology to a newer model.
- Pee Dee region social worker, Tina Turner, LMSW, and the HIV Division social work consultant, Kabra’ Benford, LMSW, helped to remove an obstacle that would have prevented an individual with HIV from getting linked to care. This individual was on isolation due to being diagnosed with another infectious disease, which made it very difficult to obtain the necessary consents to refer this individual to an HIV care provider. Both social workers were able to work with this individual to break through this barrier so that they would be linked to HIV care as quickly as possible.
- An active member of the Prison Advisory Board, Lowcountry social worker, Shanna Hastie, LMSW, has broken barriers by playing an integral part in developing the ReConnect Us program to ensure newly released individuals from the South Carolina Department of Corrections who are HIV positive receive linkage to care and vital community resources.
- Lowcountry social work manager, Tamika Melette, LMSW, and Midlands social worker Brenda Johnson, LMSW, break barriers by offering individuals living in rural communities information about community clinics and mobile testing vans that offer STD/HIV testing closer to where they live or work. Both social workers feel that offering individuals resources tailored to their specific situations and needs results in better overall health outcomes.
- Kimberly Goldman, social work intern in the Upstate Region, says that the Upstate DHEC social work team is working to break barriers by getting more involved in giving back to the community. They are doing this by reading to children in local schools, volunteering at a soup kitchen and holding a canned food drive with all of our Upstate region health departments in the month of March.
Please, take some time out this month to recognize and celebrate our social workers and the great things they do!