Current Policy and Social Justice Issues Related to School Social Work in NYS:
Members of the Legislative Committee continue to focus on collaborative efforts. NYSSSWA is excited about its collaboration with NASW-NY to increase student access to licensed/certified school social workers. We are pleased that we have several new sponsors in the House and the Senate. Our work continues!
Relevant Bills 2021-2022 NYS Legislative Session
Senate Bill (S1969) or Assembly Bill (A5019):
Robert Jackson (D, WF-31st Senate District)
Assumed office-January 1, 2019
Jackson is the chair of the Cities 1 committee as well as a member of the Civil Service and Pensions, Education, Higher Education, Housing, Construction and Community Development, Labor, New York City Education committees.
Co-Sponsors: Alessandra Biaggi (D-34th Senate District), Samra G. Brouk
(D-55th Senate District), Jeremy A. Cooney (D-56th Senate District) Pete Harckham (D-40th Senate District)
Assumed office-January 1, 2021
González-Rojas is a member of the Committee on Children and Families, the Committee on Cities, the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, the Committee on Environmental Conservation, and the Committee on Social Services. She is also a member of the Asian Pacific American Task Force, the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus, the Legislative Women’s Caucus, the Task Force on New Americans, the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, and the Task Force on Women’s Issues.
Co-Sponsors: Chantel Jackson (D-Assembly District 79), Stefani Zinerman (D-Assembly District 56) , Rebecca Seawright (D-Assembly District 76) , Andrew Hevesi (D-Assembly District 28)
This bill is the official revision of the Ortiz bill, amd is being supported by a number of other lawmakers including Senator Tim Kennedy. Current status as of 4/20/21 is “in education committee”. The bill purposes the following in relationship to mental health services in New york State public schools:
- Mandate that mental health services in schools include those provided by both a social worker and a psychologist: each of which the individual school districts will employ.
- This act will amend the education law, in relation to the employment of mental health professionals by school districts.
- School mental health services will be provided by each district for all students attending public schools in the state.
- This act states that school mental health services provided by a licensed or certified school social worker shall include but now be limited too: Assessments, evaluations and psychosocial intervention plans that are designed to prevent and intervene to address mental, social, emotional, behavioral, developmental, and addictive disorders, conditions, and disabilities of the psychosocial aspect of illness and injuries experienced by the child.
- Services by a licensed clinical social worker or those under proper supervision may also include diagnoses of mental, social, emotional, behavioral, developmental disorders and disabilities and the psychosocial aspect of illness, injury, disability and impairment.
- The mental health professionals required will also be in addition those needed to implement federal Individuals with Disabilities Act.
- This act would take effect on the first of September next succeeding the date when it became law.
Senate Bill (S1062):
Primary Sponsor: Andrew Gounardes (D, WF-22nd Senate District)
Co-Sponsors: Jabari Brisport (D-25th Senate District), Kevin S. Parker (D-21st Senate District), Julia Salazar (D-18th Senate District)
This bill does not currently have an assembly component and is NOT a revision of the Ortiz bill. Current status as of 4/20/21 is “in education committee”. The bill purposes the following in relationship to school social workers in New York State:
- Mandates a licenced or certified social worker in every school: Social workers licensed under article one hundred fifty-four of this chapter or certified pursuant to rules and regulations established by the department, required in elementary, intermediate, middle, 6 junior high and senior high schools.
- The board of education or trustees 7 of every public school district in the state shall on and after July 8 first, two thousand twenty-one employ and provide access to at least one 9 licensed or certified school social worker in each of the schools under 10 their jurisdiction exclusive of any school social workers funded or 11 mandated through any special education funding, aid, regulation or stat- 12 ute.
- Such licensed or certified school social worker shall perform such 13 duties within their lawful scope of practice.
- The Education Law is amended by adding a new section 803-B, to require the board of trustees of every school district to employ at least one licensed or certified social worker in each elementary, intermediate, middle, junior high and senior high school under their jurisdiction.
Ortiz bill (Now inactive bill related to the social worker in every school initiative) This bill was introduced in and sponsor by assemblyman Ortiz: there are several important points that this bill mandates:
- To make sure all public school districts employ social workers: “School mental health services, as defined in subdivision two of this section, shall be provided by each school district for all students attending the public schools in this state, as provided in this article. School mental health services shall include the services of a school psychologist and school social worker, each of which shall be employed by the district.”
- To establish school social workers as mental health care professionals: “As used in this article, “mental health professionals” shall mean certified school psychologists and certified or licensed school social workers duly authorized to provide mental health services pursuant to applicable law.”
- To define the scope of services they provide: “School mental health services provided by licensed or certified school social workers for the purposes of this article shall mean the several procedures and services including, but not limited to, assessments, evaluations and psychosocial intervention plans that are designed to prevent and intervene to address mental, social, emotional, behavioral, developmental, and addictive disorders, conditions, and disabilities of the psychosocial aspect of illness and injuries experienced by the child.”
- To reaffirm the necessity of school social workers as mandated by not only the ESSA but also the IDEA: “The mental health professionals required herein shall be in addition to such personnel as necessary to implement the provisions of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as amended.”
Further materials on this issue:
- Licensure & Certification: http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/sw/lcsw.htm#
- Legislation that governs Social Workers in NYS: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/EDN/A154
- NASW’s position on advocating for SSW’s: https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=WTauVOClzd0%3D&portalid=0
School Social Workers as SISP
Social workers do not have a specific title in schools but rather are set under the umbrella term Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP). This is a point of debate among school social workers as it does not provide for individual delegations and benefits that are specific to SSW’s. It also does not include specific language recognizing that social workers are licensed mental health professionals or are required to be in every district. The following definitions outline the role of SISP:
- The National Education Association defines SISP’s as: “As defined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (2015), the term ‘specialized instructional support personnel’ means: “school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists; and other qualified professional personnel, such as school nurses, speech language pathologists, and school librarians, involved in providing assessment, diagnosis, counseling, educational, therapeutic, and other necessary services (including related services as that term is defined in section 602 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1401) as part of a comprehensive program to meet student needs.’”
- The National Alliance of Specialized Instructional Support Personnel defines SISP as: One of our key recommendations was to “Clarify conflicting terminology, definitions, and roles of pupil/related services personnel to adopt one single term — “specialized instructional support personnel”— that will be used in all education laws that reference these personnel. NASISP is pleased that ESSA defines and references Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP) throughout the statute, reaffirming the important interventions and services that SISP provide our students, many of whom come to school with the most severe academic, health, and social-emotional barriers to learning. Importantly, the ESSA explicitly requires consultation with SISP in the development of Title I State and local education agency plans, as well as Title IV plans and needs assessments. SISP are further included in the development of school-wide programs, targeted assistance, and integrated student supports within the school and coordinated with the community.
Further materials on this issue:
- NASISP History: http://nasisp.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/NASISP-History2019.pdf
- NASISP Service Descriptions: http://nasisp.org/services-resources/service-descriptions/
- NASISP recommendations for reauthorizing the ESSA (2015) supported by NASW and SSWAA: https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=4-e-GS58UH4%3D&portalid=0
COVID-19 and Mental Health in Schools
Current response in schools to COVID-19 health and subsequent mental health crisis and inability of social workers to provide resources to students.
Peer-reviewed studies on the impact COVID has had on mental health of children and adolescents:
- COVID-19 and the Impact on Children’s Mental Health https://rcybc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/CHPC-Impact-of-COVID-on-Children_5-Nov-2020_FINAL.pdf
- Mental health implications of COVID-19 on children with disabilities https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7330593/
- Evidence suggests children are being left behind in COVID-19 mental health research https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00787-020-01672-8
- Children and Coping During COVID-19: A Scoping Review of Bio-Psycho-Social Factors https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mohamed-Buheji/publication/341203899_Children_and_Coping_During_COVID-19_A_Scoping_Review_of_Bio-Psycho-Social_Factors/links/5eb3ba1992851cbf7fadc1cf/Children-and-Coping-During-COVID-19-A-Scoping-Review-of-Bio-Psycho-Social-Factors.pdf
- Why we need longitudinal mental health research with children and youth during (and after) the COVID-19 pandemichttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7253952/
- Mental Health–Related Emergency Department Visits Among Children Aged <18 Years During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, January 1–October 17, 2020 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7660659/
Resources that discuss various viewpoints and issues related to social workers in educational roles during COVID:
- SSWAA’s response to COVID: https://schoolsocialwork.net/sswaa-responds-to-covid-19-new-advocacy-resources-position-papers/
- NASW-NYS note on creating social connection while physically distancing: https://www.facebook.com/NASWNYS/posts/as-we-practice-physical-distancing-but-encourage-social-connection-the-nasw-nys-/2967021220029634/
- July 2020 peer-reviewed study on the role of social workers during COVID https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0020872820944994
- Office of Mental Health-School and Mental Health Services https://omh.ny.gov/omhweb/childservice/docs/school-based-mhservices.pdf
Social Justice and Racial Equity
Currently NYSSSWA refers members to the SSWAA statement and other resources. NYSSWA can consider reviewing current legislation and peer-reviewed research on social justice in schools as part of the ongoing work on these issues:
- Consider supporting the Parker bill: Senate Bill S8673B (2019-2020) Legislative Session: Declares racism a public health crisis and establishes a working group to promote racial equity throughout the state.
- Consider supporting the Bailey bill: Senate Bill S2204 (2019-2020) Legislative Session: Establishes a temporary commission to examine and review the degree of segregation in primary and secondary schools.
- This is an excellent example of a statement on this issue that was done by the NASW North Carolina chapter: https://www.naswnc.org/news/510438/Social-Workers-Cannot-Be-Silent-Statement–Call-to-Action-Against-Racism–Race-Based-Violence.htm
- Peer-reviewed study on racism in K-12 schools (2018 SagePub): https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.3102/0091732X16686949
- Peer reviewed study on racial equity and school social work (2017 Wiley): https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/pits.22071?casa_token=o62CvvgJ3JgAAAAA:vG9JE712zKUcjkC8cSZ88My0909MDVUupEaGdISTGS40AWzZsmrupQJryU7Wu9tzMUv9jk5vviAdDLY
Further materials on this issue:
- NASW guidelines on racial equity in practice: https://naswnys.org/2019-racial-equity-rally-pressrelease/
- SSWAA resources for social justice and racial equity: https://www.sswaa.org/racial-equity-and-social-justice
Supervision for School Social Workers to obtain or maintain an LCSW
- Currently some school social workers cannot obtain supervision because there is no licenced clinical social worker in their district.
- School Social Workers can go out of district to obtain supervision for licensure but only if there is a memorandum of agreement between the districts.
- NYSSSWA is an approved provider for CEUs is it possible for NYSSSWA to become an approved provider for supervision.
Relevant FAQs from the Office of Professions
- If I am a LMSW and providing clinical social work services under supervision, does the supervisor have to be on-site? The Education Law and Commissioner’s Regulations require appropriate supervision, which in some instances may require direct or on-site supervision, in the opinion of the supervisor. Whether or not the supervisor is on-site, the supervisor shares with the LMSW responsibility for the professional services provided to each client. Therefore, the supervisor may need to be on-site to conduct joint client intakes and directly observe the LMSW practicing clinical social work.
- If my employer does not provide a qualified supervisor can I contract with a qualified supervisor outside the agency for private supervision? Arrangements where an individual hires or contracts with a licensee to provide supervision are problematic and, as a general rule, unacceptable. Supervision of your practice requires the supervisor to independently direct your practice; this is not possible when the supervisor is employed by you or acts as a paid contractor to supervise the person who can only practice under supervision. Additionally, you should not accept employment in any setting where you are not supervised by a qualified supervisor. The agency or employer is responsible for the services provided to each client, and clinical social work services may only be provided by an individual licensed and authorized to practice clinical social work. If the agency does not have a qualified supervisor on staff, it is their responsibility to hire a qualified supervisor who is responsible for the clinical practice of an LMSW or other person who is only authorized to practice under supervision. In such cases, we would suggest that there be a three-way agreement between you, the proposed supervisor, and your employer. The minimum information in such a letter of agreement would include:
- Acknowledgement that the supervisor will be employed to provide services and to supervise the applicant to develop skills and abilities in the practice of the profession;
- Acknowledgement that the supervisor will be provided with access to client records and, if appropriate, to clients to conduct joint intake or treatment sessions;
- Acknowledgement that the client will be informed that the applicant is authorized to practice only under supervision and that client-specific information is shared with a third-party supervisor;
- Acknowledgement that the client will be informed of the supervisor’s name and contact information or an agency contact to whom questions about the applicant’s practice may be addressed;
- Assurance that supervision will be of the duration and frequency specified in regulations and continue until the applicant is licensed or ceases practice; and
- Arrangements for the employer or agency to employ the supervisor including billing for services that does not constitute fee-splitting or other arrangement prohibited by Education Law and Regents Rules.
If you make arrangements for third-party supervision on your own or consult with a third-party by sharing information about the agency’s patients, including but not limited to patient records, diagnosis and treatment of the patient, you could be charged with unprofessional conduct under Part 29 of the Regents Rules.
- What is acceptable supervision in the practice of clinical social work?
The Education Law defines qualified supervisors as licensed clinical social workers, licensed psychologists and psychiatrists; no other professions are allowed to supervise. The supervisor must have been licensed before starting to supervise you. The supervising psychologist must be qualified in psychotherapy as determined by the State Board; the psychologist must submit Form 4Q to verify experience and training. The supervisor must provide 100 hours of individual or group supervision in diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment-based treatment planning, distributed over a period of at least 36 months and not more than 72 months. The supervisor is responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of each client, must discuss the applicant’s cases, provide the applicant with oversight and guidance in diagnosing and treating clients, and regularly review and evaluate the applicant’s professional work. If the LMSW is practicing clinical social work but is not seeking licensure, the LMSW must receive at least two hours per month of in-person, individual or group supervision when providing clinical social work services.
Definitions of school social work by various organizations:
- Social Work Profession (NYSED-Office of Professions): Social work is a profession that helps individuals, families, and groups change behaviors, emotions, attitudes, relationships, and social conditions to restore and enhance their capacity to meet their personal and social needs. Social workers are trained to provide a variety of services, ranging from psychotherapy to the administration of health and welfare programs. They work with human development and behavior, including the social, economic, and cultural systems in which people function. Social workers deal with a wide variety of long and short-term mental, emotional, behavioral and environmental conditions, including:
- mental illnesses and emotional disturbances
- marital and family difficulties
- adjustment problems related to acute and chronic illnesses
- alcohol and substance abuse
- behavioral and learning disorders of children and adolescents
- community problems and social issues
- School Social Worker (SSWAA): School social work is a specialized area of practice within the broad field of the social work profession. School social workers bring unique knowledge and skills to the school system and the student services team. School Social Workers are trained mental health professionals who can assist with mental health concerns, behavioral concerns, positive behavioral support, academic, and classroom support, consultation with teachers, parents, and administrators as well as provide individual and group counseling/therapy. School social workers are instrumental in furthering the mission of the schools which is to provide a setting for teaching, learning, and for the attainment of competence and confidence. School social workers are hired by school districts to enhance the district’s ability to meet its academic mission, especially where home, school and community collaboration is the key to achieving student success.
- School social work is a specialized area of practice within the broad field of the social work profession.
- School social workers bring unique knowledge and skills to the school system and the student services team.
- School Social Workers are trained mental health professionals who can assist with mental health concerns, behavioral concerns, positive behavioral support, academic, and classroom support, consultation with teachers, parents, and administrators as well as provide individual and group counseling/therapy.
- School social workers are instrumental in furthering the mission of the schools which is to provide a setting for teaching, learning, and for the attainment of competence and confidence.
- School social workers are hired by school districts to enhance the district’s ability to meet its academic mission, especially where home, school and community collaboration is the key to achieving student success.
- School Social Workers (NASW): School social workers are an integral link between school, home, and community in helping students achieve academic success. They work directly with school administrations as well as students and families, providing leadership in forming school discipline policies, mental health intervention, crisis management, and support services. As part of an interdisciplinary team to help students succeed, school social workers also facilitate community involvement in the schools while advocating for student success.
- School Social Worker (OMH-Office of Mental Health): Schools employ licensed social workers who are also a certified school social worker. School social workers are clinicians and considered an instructional employee and part of the pupil personnel services (PPS) staff. Duties are not limited to direct instruction of students, and include supporting the function of teaching, such as performing student and parent case work services and consulting and collaborating with other school personnel to establish and plan respective roles in the modification of student behavior.
- School Social Workers’ Role (NYSSSWA): School social workers are licensed as well as certified pupil personal providers with unique and diverse skills. School social workers who are licensed as a Clinical Social Worker can diagnose mental, emotional, behavioral, addictive and developmental disorders and disabilities. A sampling of the scope of school social work practice includes:
- Identifying biological, medical, psychological, cultural, sociological, emotional, legal, economic, and environmental factors that impact student learning.
- Implementing appropriate school intervention and prevention programs in response to demonstrated needs, which may include but not be limited to:
- crisis intervention
- conflict resolution
- violence prevention
- substance abuse prevention
- child abuse prevention
- positive self-image
- social skills and character education
- individual, group and/or family counseling
As you can imagine, 2020 was focused on COVID-19. We had sincerely hoped for the passage of the Ortiz Bill in 2019 which guarantees every school age child in NYS access to a district employed, licensed, School Social Worker; but it did not happen. The Legislature continues to debate about how to make our schools safer without recognizing the need for adding preventative services. We did, however, get a Senate sponsor which is encouraging and we continue to advocate and work toward the passage of the bill.
School Counseling Amendments:
Do Schools Have to Hire More School Counselors? “NO!”
There have been many inquiries from members regarding the school counselor amendments. School Social Workers are expressing concerns that their districts may feel compelled to hire more school counselors as a result of these regulations. That is not the intent of the regulations. Please familiarize yourself with the regulations and details so that you can use your expertise to discuss the interpretation of the regulations with your district.
News for Licensed Clinical Social Workers Regarding the NYS Workers’ Compensation System
“A new law signed as part of Governor Cuomo’s 2019-2020 budget allows more types of medical providers to treat injured workers. Starting January 1, 2020, licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), nurse practitioners, acupuncturists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physician assistants can be authorized to treat workers’ compensation patients. This is great news for injured workers and providers alike — injured workers will have improved access to quality health care and medical providers can expand their practices.”
School Social Work Bill: February 12, 2018 Press Conference
On February 12, 2018 NY Assembly Assistant Speaker Félix W. Ortiz (D-Kings) and NY Senator Jesse Hamilton (D-Brooklyn) held a press conference with leaders of the New York State School Social Workers’ Association, as well as the National Association of Social Workers-New York State and New York City Chapters to introduce legislation, Bill A09533, that requires access to “at least one full-time licensed or certified school social worker to be employed in each elementary, intermediate, middle, junior high school and senior high school” in New York State.
Ortiz stated: “Certified social workers are the ‘gatekeepers’ for our youth, adolescents, and young adults’ education to help guide their future successes. Many of these students face problems that require professional help. Early intervention is the most effective way to prevent difficulties later in life.” Senator Hamilton noted: “Mental health, emotional health and wellness all matter to educating our children. A parent fearing eviction, violence at home or in the community, any number of circumstances can impact a child’s ability to learn. School social workers have the expertise to help children, help families, and help our communities address these needs.” See:
- Joint NYSSSWA & NASW Press Release
- Message from NYSSSWA’s President
- NYS Social Workers and Legislators Unite to Pass School Social Work Bill
- Interview with Assemblyman Félix Ortiz & Peg Barrett, NYSSSWA President
- Spanish Interview with Assemblyman Félix Ortiz & Evelyn Bautista Miller, Bilingual School Social Worker https://drive.google.com/open?
- Thank you letter from NY Assembly Assistant Speaker Félix W. Ortiz
Candida Brooks Harrison, NASW-NYC President Elect
Peg Barrett, NYSSSWA President
Evelyn Bautista Miller, NYSSSWA Member & Bilingual SSW
Samantha Howell, NASW-NY Executive Director
Assistant Speaker Assemblyman Félix Ortiz,
Hai-Ping Yeh, NYSSSWA Past President
Kelly Hannon Nichols, NYSSSWA Legislative Chair
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Grades 6-12 Health Classes to Teach Mental Health Awareness:
On October, 3rd 2017, the Governor signed a historic Bill A03887 requiring that all health classes 6-12 teach mental health in health education classes. John Richter, Director of Public Policy at MHANYS, commented that “we possess the knowledge and tools necessary to increase awareness in young people about mental health, how to recognize when someone’s in distress, or crisis, and how to get help.” Advocates and many experts believe that teaching the facts about mental health and openly discussing the issues with students will lessen the stigma surrounding mental illness.
In working with the Advisory Board group on how to roll out the legislation, we are aware that many, if not all, of the Health teachers around New York State are teaching some form of mental health instruction already. This legislation serves to offer a more uniform and concise standard for what should be taught and sets up a state-wide regional resource center for teachers which will offer curriculum lessons.
During instruction, teachers will need support with questions that may arise from students needing help or self-disclosing that they or a family member is coping with mental health issues. This legislation offers a unique opportunity for School Social Workers around the state to act as consultants to Health teachers and PPS Directors about curriculum programs. More importantly, as licensed, clinical mental health professionals in schools, we are in a position to provide assessment and direct services to students needing assistance within the school. We also have the clinical background and knowledge of community resources to assist with brokering and linking families to appropriate community services.
Peg Barrett, Board President, and Kelly Hannon Nichols, Legislative Committee Chair, have continued to represent NYSSSWA on the Advisory Board. In July, 2018 the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released Mental Health Education Literacy in Schools: Linking to a Continuum of Well Being Comprehensive Guide 2018 (80 pages)
School Social Workers are encouraged to become familiar with this legislation as well as NYSED’s Guide. Introduce yourselves to your Health teachers and let them know you will make yourself available if they need assistance. This is a unique partnership where we can present ourselves as critical members of the mental health team as well as increase our involvement and visibility to support and assist instructional staff, children and the school community.
Legislative News Archives:
Interested in past legislation?