Welcome to the NASW Virginia COVID-19 Web Section
At a time when information is either coming in fast, is still developing, or is rumor-based, NASW Virginia has launched this special COVID-19 section to provide carefully curated, verified news and resources in a single location for all state social workers.
Social workers are well-trained and experienced in crisis management. We deal with different emergencies every day. While the public may panic about the pandemic, social work professionals in hospitals, schools, agencies, clinics, and elsewhere are calmly working to address community and individual needs in ways that help reduce stress and fear. This is when the 700,000 social workers in America can shine—on the frontlines of national and state responses to reduce the spread and impacts of COVID-19
Help the NASW Virginia Chapter with getting as many individuals vaccinated as possible by sharing these graphics with your clients and on your social media or communication platforms.
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NASW Virginia Joins NASW’s “Month of Vaccination Action” to Help Minority Communities Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19
As part of a new Month of Action to help Black, Latinx, and other communities of color boost COVID-19 vaccination rates, NASW is asking Virginia social workers and social work students to share and reinforce special digital messaging and tools.
The social media messaging and outreach is in English and Spanish, and the Virginia Chapter is posting these regularly throughout June on Facebook.
The effort supports the Biden Administration big push to attain a minimum 70% vaccination rate across the country by July 4. Virginia is expected to reach that level well before the holiday if vaccinations continue at the current pace. However, areas such as Jackson Ward are well below vaccination goals due to problems with transportation, child care accessibility, inability to take off work, a lack of technology to learn where vaccination sites are, and vaccine hesitancy or misunderstandings.
How Frontline Essential Workers Can Access Vaccination
Local health departments, pharmacies, healthcare systems, and employer-based occupational health units are working collaboratively to vaccinate other essential workers. Many essential workers will likely receive the vaccine through employer-based vaccination clinics. Others will get it through their local health department or through arrangements with pharmacies and healthcare providers.
Information will be released from local health departments, employers, and healthcare providers about how and when you and other social workers can receive your COVID-19 vaccines. The ability to schedule appointments will depend on the supply of vaccine available.
For the latest information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine.
Read NASWVA's Voices from the Field featured interviews - learn what effects COVID-19 has had on our members, their practices, and their clients here.
October 5, 2020 - NASW Virginia Chapter Applauds NASW Coalition Calling for CDC to Slow High Rate of COVID-19 in Jails, Prisons
NASW has co-signed a letter with a coalition of 100-plus medical experts, human rights organizations, and faith-based organizations that calls on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to revise its current COVID-19 guidance for adult and juvenile correctional facilities to restrict the use of punitive and prolonged solitary confinement as a form of pandemic response at the federal, state, and local levels.
The number of people held in prolonged solitary confinement has increased by an estimated 500 percent in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, says NASW. According to the United Nations, the use of solitary confinement for more than 15 days can amount to torture, and the practice should be severely restricted, especially for pregnant women and people suffering from serious mental illness.
Numerous medical experts and public health officials have repeatedly warned that solitary confinement exacerbates the spread of the virus and is not an effective form of pandemic response. More than 1,000 incarcerated individuals have already died of COVID-19, and jails and prisons make up more than 90 percent of the nation’s top pandemic hotspots.
“Policymakers must enact sound, science-based measures to protect vulnerable populations in jails and prisons, so inmates do not contract COVID-19 and spread it when they return to their communities,” says NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. Social workers are encouraged to read the NASW Social Justice Brief, “Addressing COVID-19 and Correctional Facilities: A Social Work Imperative,” for more in-depth information on this advocacy topic.
“All of the valid evidence points to the fact that solitary confinement—which is disproportionately experienced by Black and Brown prison populations in Virginia and nationwide—does not restrict spread of the virus,” states NASW Virginia Chapter Executive Director Debra Riggs, CAE. “We urge the CDC to immediately respond to the five actions outlined in NASW’s coalition letter. That even basic soap or hand sanitizer is not widely available to people incarcerated is ridiculous.”
Issue clear guidance to local, state, and federal corrections officials, judges, and law enforcement agencies on reducing adult and juvenile jail and prison intakes and population size to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Issue public health guidelines distinguishing “solitary confinement” from “quarantine” and “medical isolation” to prevent punitive conditions for those who contract COVID-19.
Assemble a formal CDC working group on COVID-19 and prisons.
Segregate suspected and documented COVID-19 patients from the general correctional population.
Make soap and hand sanitizer freely accessible to all people incarcerated and working in correctional facilities, and make gloves mandatory for all staff.
The coalition’s letter highlights a June 2020 report by Unlock the Box that details the myriad ways in which underprepared state and federal corrections officials have failed to develop comprehensive plans for containing the spread of COVID-19 inside their facilities. The report shows that in addition to prolonged solitary confinement becoming the default pandemic response in many prison systems across the United States, there has also been a systematic failure to institute basic public health measures that could actually prevent the virus’s spread inside these facilities.
These include targeted and safe depopulation efforts that would reduce overcrowding and make effective social distancing easier and more effective. Many jails and prisons have also failed to provide critical personal protective equipment or enough basic sanitization supplies such as hand sanitizer or soap.
September 8, 2020 - New Resource: How to Negotiate Rent with Your Landlord
New Resource: How to Negotiate Rent With Your Landlord. The eviction ban has been extended through the year, but in January 2021, many Americans will be hit with several months of owed back-pay. To help renters, writers at thesimpledollar.com created a guide with
Expert advice negotiating rent reduction
Tips on how to successfully prepare for a conversation with their landlord
Additional resources for rent assistance
Please consider sharing this resource with social work clients.
August 19, 2020 - NASW Practice Alert on Home Health: Telehealth During COVID-19 and New Payment System
The Medicare home health benefit, which includes medical social services, has long been essential to beneficiaries living with acute, chronic, and advanced health conditions. Access to home health services is of utmost importance during the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
A new NASW Practice Alert provides an overview of the Medicare home health benefit, describes NASW’s advocacy on behalf of both home health social workers and beneficiaries served during the COVID-19 pandemic, and clarifies the status of home health social work under the Patient-Driven Groupings Model.
May 21, 2020 - NASW has published a new Practice Alert: “COVID-19 Resources for School Social Workers.”
Download it at bit.ly/NASWschoolCounselorGuide.
May 15, 2020 - ARTS and DMAS Guidance Available on Business Re-opening
Governor Ralph Northam has announced a “Blueprint for Easing Public Health Restrictions” starting Friday, May 15, 2020. While Behavioral Health and Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services (ARTS) and the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) understand that some providers may be eager to resume more face-to-face services, they are reminding everyone that the provider flexibilities, allowances, directives, and limitations related to delivery of behavioral health and ARTS services extend throughout the declared public emergency in Virginia until otherwise formally notified.
Health providers and stakeholders are invited to sign up for automatic notifications of business re-opening guidance from ARTS and DMAS.
To access archived ARTS’ COVID-19 guidance, directives, recordings, webinars, and FAQs effective until the state emergency ends or otherwise notified, visit https://www.dmas.virginia.gov/#/emergencywaiver.
May 15, 2020 - Free NASW Webinar to Teach Nursing Home, Caregiver/Social Worker Support during COVID-19
Earn 1 free Aging & Long-Term Care credit hour by attending a May 26 NASW webinar titled “Supporting and Advocating for Nursing Home Residents, Family Caregivers, and Social Workers during COVID-19.”
The event, which runs 2 to 3:15 p.m. EST, will cover strategies and resources to enhance resilience, as well as national advocacy to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on nursing home residents, social work staff, and family caregivers.
Nonmembers may attend for $20. Register today at https://buff.ly/2yTAzvB .
May 4, 2020 - Unrecognized Heroes Adapt Mental Health Services in a COVID-19 Era
This op-ed originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch
By Debra Riggs, CAE
David Lewis, LCSW, is a trauma therapist working in isolation in Crozet, Va., to counsel adults and children who have survived the murder of a relative. The support groups he runs are on hold--another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic--while he tries to reconfigure them online through the Virginia Victim Assistance Network.
Recently recognized as Social Worker of the Year by the Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Lewis has embraced loosened telehealth regulations. He holds online appointments but frets clients will “disappear,” finding computer connections inadequate for such sensitive therapy.
Heather Stone, PhD, LCSW, and her 16-member team moved the entire patient caseload and operations of Central Virginia Health Services to a virtual platform in one frantic week. Skilled in integrated care with behavioral health, medical, and dental services, Stone has had to master coaching others in telehealth technology.
“Administratively, it was really stressful and a lot of work when the pandemic first broke out because I was so concerned about the safety of CVHS clinicians and patients, as well as needing to operate within federal and state regulations,” she says. “Many of my families are also facing real struggles from the impact of social distancing--specifically, the effects of job losses, food insecurity, and partners and children who have to be home in abusive situations.”
Both Lewis and Stone are among the thousands of social workers working under difficult circumstances to help increasingly vulnerable populations endure the mental health challenges of a profoundly disrupted society. And both—like their peers statewide, nationwide--are generally invisible.
No one is holding drive-by recognition parades for social workers, with its professional culture of modesty and deep discretion. No celebrity concerts or corporate TV ads tout the often life-threatening risks taken by social workers in their daily duties.
Few people realize that social work is the largest behavioral health profession in America. Most of the public has no idea what social workers do and, granted, the field has diverse specialties, so this is understandable.
But social workers provide vital services in our schools, hospitals, government agencies, health clinics, veteran facilities, addiction centers, homes for the seriously mentally ill, and more. To the knowledgeable, they are--as Governor Ralph Northam rightly labeled them early in this pandemic--“essential workers.”
Sadly, that was the last time social workers were publicly recognized, despite their critical role as “frontline” healthcare professionals. While clients aren’t ventilated, they may be in the equivalent of a mental health ICU: an alcoholic whose commitment to sobriety is wavering without in-person support meetings, a furloughed veteran cut off from health insurance that covered his panic disorder treatment, or a clinically depressed mother balancing at-home work with childcare.
Because of Northam’s shelter-at-home directive, social workers are not able to physically rush to their clients’ sides, but they have charged forward to advocate for, successfully attain, train, and set up innovative support systems such as teletherapy services that offer at least some care options.
Barriers have been daunting, including technophobia and disparity in internet access or device ownership. In response, NASW and NASW Virginia Chapter are leading the calls for Congress to tweak telehealth regulations to allow use of any phone or audio-only device, in addition to now-permitted video-enabled devices.
Other major problems have been the severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by social workers working in high-risk settings such as assisted-living facilities, and unclear, rapidly changing, or non-inclusive safety guidance from regulatory agencies.
Of increasing concern are rising reports of social workers forced to choose between unsafe working conditions and pink slips. Locally, NASW Virginia Chapter has been raising awareness of these cases to the Virginia Department of Health, most recently regarding an employer who directed a social worker to bill for clinical services while doing nursing tasks and medication technician work in a residential program.
So anxious are social workers—each of whom is bound by state and NASW codes of ethics—about such conflicts and lax oversight that our organization has called on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to remind employers that retaliation is illegal against employees who raise personal workforce safety concerns.
The need for greater public recognition of social workers like David Lewis and Heather Stone is not driven by ego. It’s driven by necessity. As essential workers, social workers must be supported—financially, professionally, and ethically--with the same vigor as nurses and doctors. Indeed, some work just upstairs or next door to an ER. They, too, are operating under unprecedented circumstances to serve populations with needs greater than ever before. Let’s acknowledge social workers for the “essential,” heroic difference they are making in Virginia.
[AUTHOR] Debra Riggs, CAE, is executive director of National Association of Social Workers Virginia and Metro DC.
May 1, 2020 - NASW Victory! CMS Approves Medicare Reimbursement for Audio-only Device Delivery of Mental Health Services by Social Workers
A strong advocacy campaign led by the National Association of Social Workers and its chapters has resulted in victory with the May 1 announcement by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that it will permit clinical social workers to receive Medicare reimbursement for psychotherapy services provided via audio-only devices such as landlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CMS made the rule adjustment, along with other temporary waivers and changes, to increase access to healthcare and mental health services for the millions of older adults who currently cannot safely receive services in person. The agency had previously enabled greater deployment of telehealth by allowing healthcare providers such as clinical social workers to use smartphones with video chat apps to provide services in addition to pre-pandemic-approved video conferencing platforms.
“This CMS change will directly assist thousands of Medicare beneficiaries in Virginia, especially those living in rural areas or with low incomes who may not have smartphones or reliable internet access,” says NASW Virginia Executive Director Debra Riggs, CAE. “Audio-only capability for delivering mental health services adds another valuable telecommunications tool that clinical social workers can use to better serve diverse populations such as older adults and people living with disabilities.”
April 23, 2020 - Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services Issues COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Blanket Waivers for Health Care Providers
Link to the guidance here, which details provisions of interest to social workers in healthcare settings, including hospitals, long term care & rehabilitation facilities, community health centers, home health, hospice, nephrology, psychiatric or ID inpatient facilities, etc.
Helpful Website Resources
• Approved Telehealth Waivers:
• 1135 Waiver Request Information:
• Medicare Fee-For-Service Additional Emergency and Disaster-Related Policies and Procedures
That May Be Implemented Only With an §1135 Waiver:
• Blanket Waivers – Claims Submission: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/se20011.pdf
• Frequently Asked Questions – 1135 Waivers: https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/Emergency/Downloads/MedicareFFS-EmergencyQsAs1135Waiver.pdf
• Medicaid Disaster Response Toolkit: https://www.medicaid.gov/resources-for-states/disaster-response-toolkit/index.html
April 22, 2020 - Thanks to NASW Connecticut for sharing this webinar on Strategies & Techniques for Disaster Behavioral Health
The following slides and presenter bio go with a webinar on responding to the corona virus pandemic. The link to the webinar is included; the presentation of 90 minutes length. This webinar is being shared with the permission of the presenter. This recording is from a live webinar and as such does not have a post-test, thus we cannot issue CECs for viewing it.
COVID-19 DBH Responders Link to Slides
COVID-19 DBH Presenter Link to Bio
The link to the webinar “COVID-19: Strategies and Techniques for Disaster Behavioral Health Responders”: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CYQL7ZtHArgqUtLsoqsnCmzdT2NsKgcT/view?usp=sharing
April 21, 2020 - NASW Calls for OSHA to Warn Employers that Retaliation Against Healthcare Whistleblowers Is Illegal
NASW has asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to remind employers that retaliation is illegal against healthcare workers who raise legitimate concerns about their personal safety while caring for patients with COVID-19.
“These professionals have the right to work in safe environments and to advocate for safe working conditions. Social workers who report concerns regarding their personal safety or who request assistance in assuring their safety, should not fear retaliation, blame, or questioning of their competency from their supervisors or colleagues,” according to an April 19, 2020, NASW press release. “… We urge OSHA to act quickly to address whistleblower complaints related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Any social workers experiencing acts of retaliation from their employer are urged to file a whistleblower complaint online with OSHA or call 1-800-321-OSHA. For the full release, visit https://bit.ly/NASWcallForPPESafetyMandates.
April 21, 2020 - NASW Calls for More PPE, Funding to Protect Social Workers from COVID-19
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is vigorously pushing for social workers and other health care workers to have access to optimal personal protective equipment (PPE).
The organization also is urging Congress and the White House to include much-needed safety provisions in the next COVID-19 funding package, including mandates that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) quickly promulgate an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect health care workers from emerging infectious and that the federal government will use of the Defense Production Act of 1950 to mass-produce and procure needed PPE, ventilators, tests, and other medical equipment.
“Social workers are essential workers on the front lines providing much-needed mental health care in-person in numerous settings, ranging from hospitals to nursing facilities to family homes. They are also instrumental in attending to the social needs of patients that must be addressed to help ensure recovery, such as access to nutritional food, reliable transportation, and safe housing. To perform these functions at the highest possible level, worker safety must be a priority,” says NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW.
Despite recent federal actions to address COVID-19, such as telehealth flexibilities to enable virtual service provision, many social workers and other healthcare workers are still at unacceptably high risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 on the job. This not only puts social workers at risk of exposure, but is putting their other patients, coworkers, families, and communities at risk as well. For the full release, visit https://bit.ly/NASWcallForPPESafetyMandates.
April 20, 2020 - Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) Resources
DMAS is providing resources related to the treatment of COVID-19 on their website. Resources include:
COVID-19 Medicaid Information Eligibility, Enrollment, and Appeals - click pdf right
Medicaid COVID Response Materials - includes links to fact sheets
April 20, 2020 - Resources Are Available to Help Hospital-based Social Workers Advocate for Their Own Safety
Healthcare social workers based in hospitals are reporting that their organizations are requiring them to rotate in-person and remote shifts when possible—often without adequate personal protection equipment. Such employees can reference Centers for Disease Control guidelines (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/preparedness-checklists.html) and American Hospital Association resources (https://www.aha.org/issue-landing-page/2020-03-15-coronavirus-covid-19-protecting-health-care-workers) to advocate for flexibility in their settings.
“Mandating that hospital social workers endanger their own lives by meeting in person with clients without appropriate PPEs is not acceptable nor legal,” says NASW Virginia Executive Director Debra Riggs, CAE. “No one should be forced to choose between their job and potentially their life. Employers should work with their social workers to find other ways to deliver needed services at this challenging time—not hand down new professional practices that are dangerous to everyone involved.”
April 14, 2020 - Student Field Placements
The Virginia Board of Social Work requires that hours related to a field placement is integrated with clinical coursework. The Board specifies who can supervise, but does not have regulations requiring that the field placement be in person with a client or via telehealth. If the field placement meets the universities CSWE curriculum and the School of Social Work approves the field placement, the Virginia Board of Social Work accepts the placement. If, by chance, a student cannot receive all of the required hours during the field placement, it can be “ made up” during the approved Supervision for Social Workers, under the Board. For more information, contact Debra Riggs at firstname.lastname@example.org
April 8, 2020 - Research being conducted on animal-human relationships during COVID-19 crisis - please take survey
As we all know, COVID-19 has impacted every area of our lives, even including the relationship we have with our pets. We are hoping you would be willing take a survey (and help us spread the word about these surveys (one for dog owners and one for at owners)) to help us understand more about this impact. The surveys are short (~10 minute) and anonymous. Any questions about the survey can be directed to Lori Kogan (email@example.com). It is our plan to analyze preliminary data quickly to share results asap to help pet owners and the veterinary community at large.
Survey for dog owners: https://colostate.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_byDQo00Sf28imxv
Survey for cat owners: https://colostate.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bBY40ypyUtLl44R
April 7, 2020 - Information about Federal CARES Act, EIDL disaster loans, and Paycheck Protection Program Loans - Of interest to Private Practitioners
See the PDF below for a document created by a private practitioner in Texas, which outlines some details of these resources. Please note: This information is accurate to the best of NASWVA's knowledge, but we are not liable for any errors contained therein; please contact your accountant, banker and/or lawyer with questions.
April 3, 2020 - Update from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Billing for Professional Telehealth Distant Site Services During the Public Health Emergency — Revised
This corrects a prior message that appeared in our March 31, 2020 Special Edition.
Building on prior action to expand reimbursement for telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries, CMS will now allow for more than 80 additional services to be furnished via telehealth. When billing professional claims for all telehealth services with dates of services on or after March 1, 2020, and for the duration of the Public Health Emergency (PHE), bill with:
Place of Service (POS) equal to what it would have been had the service been furnished in-person
Modifier 95, indicating that the service rendered was actually performed via telehealth
As a reminder, CMS is not requiring the CR modifier on telehealth services. However, consistent with current rules for telehealth services, there are two scenarios where modifiers are required on Medicare telehealth professional claims:
Furnished as part of a federal telemedicine demonstration project in Alaska and Hawaii using asynchronous (store and forward) technology, use GQ modifier
Furnished for diagnosis and treatment of an acute stroke, use G0 modifier
There are no billing changes for institutional claims; critical access hospital method II claims should continue to bill with modifier GT.
Trump Administration Issues Key Recommendations to Nursing Homes, State and Local Governments
On April 3, at the direction of President Trump, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued critical recommendations to state and local governments, as well as nursing homes, to help mitigate the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in nursing homes. The recommendations build on and strengthen recent guidance from CMS and CDC related to effective implementation of longstanding infection control procedures.
Billing for Multi-Function Ventilators (HCPCS Code E0467) under the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and Otherwise
CMS recognizes that in these important times, in particular, beneficiaries, health care clinicians, suppliers, and manufacturers are looking for the broadest possible access to ventilators for their care needs. We are taking a number of steps to increase access to and remind suppliers about certain options available to them and beneficiaries regarding multi-function ventilators.
Effective immediately, CMS is suspending claims editing for multi-function ventilators when there are claims for separate devices in history that have not met their reasonable useful lifetime. For more information on multi-function ventilators, see MLN Matters Special Edition Article SE20012.
New ICD-10-CM diagnosis code, U07.1, for COVID-19
In response to the national emergency that was declared concerning the COVID-19 outbreak, a new diagnosis code, U07.1, COVID-19, has been implemented, effective April 1, 2020. As a result, an updated ICD-10 MS-DRG GROUPER software package to accommodate the new ICD-10-CM diagnosis code, U07.1, COVID-19, effective with discharges on and after April 1, 2020, is available on the CMS MS-DRG Classifications and Software webpage. This updated GROUPER software package (V37.1 R1) replaces the GROUPER software package V37.1 that was developed in response to the new ICD-10-CM diagnosis code U07.0, Vaping-related disorder, also effective with discharges on and after April 1, 2020, that is currently available on the MS-DRG Classifications and Software webpage. Providers should use this new code, U07.1, where appropriate, for discharges on or after April 1, 2020. Refer to the updated MLN Matters Articles for additional Medicare Fee-For-Service information:
For detailed information regarding the assignment of new diagnosis code U07.1, COVID-19, under the ICD-10 MS-DRGs, visit the MS-DRG Classifications and Software webpage. The announcement is located under the “Latest News” heading. For additional information related to the new COVID-19 diagnosis code, visit the CDC website.
March 28, 2020 - Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Agency (CISA) updates guidance on critical infrastructure
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), part of the Department of Homeland Security, released updated guidance on critical infrastructure. Social workers are included as part of the critical Healthcare & Public Health sector. For more information:
General information: https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19
Guidance on essential critical infrastructure workforce: https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/CISA_Guidance_on_the_Essential_Critical_Infrastructure_Workforce_Version_2.0_Updated.pdf
Details on Healthcare and Public Health sector: https://www.cisa.gov/healthcare-and-public-health-sector
March 25, 2020 - Act Now! Congress is Considering COVID-19 Aid Packages - Urge Congress to Ensure that Medicare Reimburse for Mental and Behavioral Health Services Provided by Audio-Only Telehealth
Congress is developing a third package of legislation responding to the COVID-19 epidemic. We need to make sure this includes a provision to enable Medicare to reimburse for telehealth that is provided by audio-only telephone (versus a smartphone with a video chat app).
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently broadened access to telehealth services under Medicare by allowing providers to use smartphones with video chat apps to provide services, to beneficiaries who are in their own home. This is an important step. However, many Medicare beneficiaries either don't have access to smartphones, don't know how to use video chat capability, or do not have adequate, reliable internet service to support video communications. With social distancing likely to be required for many weeks and months, and with research showing the severe adverse effects of social isolation and loneliness, Medicare beneficiaries need to be able to pick up a phone and connect easily with mental health providers. Please take a moment to contact your lawmakers.
March 19, 2020 - HIPAA Information
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the US Department of Health and Human Services is relaxing its enforcement of HIPAA regulations governing telehealth during the COVID-19 National Emergency. Please read the notice at this link. Because this is a federal announcement, we are not in a position to answer questions or offer clarification on this issue.
March 18, 2020 - COVID-19 Update from the Board on test centers, CE and more
We have received additional questions, and felt the need to provide some clarification on the following issues:
Starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020 Pearson VUE-owned test centers in all U.S. and Canada locations will suspend test delivery until April 16, 2020. Please visit ASWB's website at www.aswb.org regularly for future updates. The Board will let you know that you have been approved to test, but we will not register you to test until the ASWB testing sites are up and running. We will then send you an email to let you know that you are officially approved to test through ASWB and can begin the registration process with ASWB. For those of you still waiting to test, please follow ASWB's guidance. The time that the testing sites are down will not count against the two years you have to take and pass the exam, since the exam was not available.
Although you have a year extension to complete your CEs, you still must renew your license by June 30, 2020.
There are no restrictions on the number of continuing education hours that can be obtained online or in person.
Along with the Board of Social Work's guidance document on Technology-Assisted Therapy and the Use of Social Media (140-3), the Board of Psychology also has a useful guidance document and many of the same principles apply which can be found here. These documents are just guidance as the Regulations do not prohibit telehealth. Just please remember that the standards of practice apply regardless of the modality. More guidance on this issue will be forthcoming with respect to HIPPA compliance and reimbursement.
Virginia Code § 54.1-3706 at the Laws and Regulations page requires that "In order to engage in the practice of social work, it shall be necessary to hold a license." Additionally, Virginia Code § 54.1-3701 at the Laws and Regulations page outlines exemptions to the licensure requirements, such as working in an exempt setting, or the activities or services of a student pursuing licensure. At this point in time the Governor's Executive Order 51 does not waive the licensure requirement if you do not fit into one of the exempt categories.
COVID-19 Information from the Board of Social Work
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board has received many questions from anxious Licensees and Supervisees in Social Work. We are sharing the answers we have at this time, and promise to continue to send out emails and simultaneously update our website as we learn more. At this point we have received the most questions regarding telehealth and Continuing Education (CE) requirements for renewal.
In response to telehealth, any licensee or Supervisee in Social Work can practice telehealth within Virginia. You will need to contact another state to determine their rules and whether that state would allow for you to practice into that state without a license from that state, as we cannot offer guidance on another state's laws and regulations. Virginia's laws and regulations are silent as to whether Supervisees in Social Work may provide telehealth services, but it is not prohibited at this point. Please see the Guidance Document 140-3 at the link provided for more information https://www.dhp.virginia.gov/social/social_guidelines.htm.
As to those concerned about completing the CE requirements for renewal, the Board will grant a one-year extension to all licensees. As a result, unless you are newly licensed and not required to complete continuing education requirements this year, each LCSW will have until June 30, 2021 to complete the required 30 hours of CE, and each LBSW or LMSW will have until June 30, 2021 to complete the required 15 hours of CE. Please note that each LCSW is still required to complete the required 30 hours of CE for the June 30, 2022 renewal, and each LBSW and LMSW is still required to complete the 15 hours of CE by the June 30, 2022 renewal, as well. Also, please note, that this extension does not apply to those individuals who must complete CEs as part of a Board order. If you have questions regarding these requirements, please contact your Compliance Manager.
The Board may be short staffed at times as many will be required to telework, so the best way to reach the Board with questions is to send an email. Email addresses are listed on the Board website. Thank you for your patience and please stay healthy.
Tuesday, March 17 - CMS Issues Teletherapy Guidance for Clinical Social Workers with Medicare Clients
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance late today allowing telehealth for Medicare beneficiaries--a victory for NASW and other advocates who have been pushing for the move in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinical social workers now can provide teletherapy to beneficiaries if a new or existing client is in their home. There will be no audits to determine prior relationship. Telephone/audio-only is not reimbursable; CSWs must use a videoconferencing platform, which should be easier since HIPAA requirements are also eased. For full details, visit http://bit.ly/MedicareTeletherapyGuidance. Graphic source: cms.gov
Tuesday, March 17, 2020 - Closure of U.S.- and Canada-based Pearson VUE-owned Test Centers
Due to increasing concern for the health and safety of candidates and employees, and in response to government guidance and difficulty procuring the critical hygienic products that keep its test centers safe, Pearson VUE has temporarily closed its U.S.- and Canada-based test centers as of March 17.
Candidates can reschedule their exams for appointments starting April 16 and beyond if conditions allow.
If you already have a scheduled exam:
You will receive an email cancellation notice, and you will either receive a refund (if paid to Pearson VUE) or an extension as determined by your exam sponsor. The company will work with you to reschedule your exam as soon as it is safe to resume test delivery (on or after April 16).
If you are looking to schedule an exam:
Registration windows for new exam appointments will not be available until April 16. If you have additional questions regarding voucher usage or testing windows, please visit your exam program homepage to speak to the customer service team associated with your program.
To monitor the company’s COVID-19 website, visit https://home.pearsonvue.com/coronavirus-update
Monday, March 16, 2020 - Update on NASW Actions on Telehealth and Reimbursement
Possible changes are moving forward quickly to Medicare and coverage for teletherapy, specifically for those who are in their homes. In early March, Congress passed a bill around COVID-19 that includes a telehealth provision.
Its provisions cannot be implemented until the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issues regulatory guidance. According to NASW, the department plans to do this March 19. Several members of Congress have implored the agency to move faster and to ensure that the telehealth provisions are “good” (not just for teletherapy but in general, for numerous types of provider scenarios).
Along with several of its mental health allies, NASW is sending a letter shortly to CMS to urge them to prioritize mental health support and in-home teletherapy in the guidance.
NASW also has been working with the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) to provide information to members about emergency waivers and other aspects related to interstate teletherapy and loosening related state licensing rules due to the pandemic. That information will go on the NASW COVID-19 website, as will updates on this topic.
Lastly, NASW will provide updates on the issue of telehealth parity on its national COVID-19 website.
As for the social justice implications of the virus, NASW is working on a likely public statement and deciding on other actions to ensure economic relief and other supports. all in the loop on this important dimension of the crisis and our nation’s response to it.
This national emergency and leaders’ responses to it are an example of how important it is to have social workers in these key government leadership positions! Stay tuned for Virginia COVID-19 information for social workers on the chapter’s new web section, COVID-19.
March 14, 2020 - Medicare & Medicaid FAQs
Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued Frequently Asked Questions to Ensure Individuals, Issuers and States have Clear Information on Coverage Benefits for COVID-19. This action is part of the broader, ongoing effort by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to ensure that all Americans – particularly those at high-risk of complications from the COVID-19 virus – have access to the health benefits that can help keep them healthy while helping to contain the spread of this disease.
The COVID-19 FAQs for EHB can be found here: https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Fact-Sheets-and-FAQs/Downloads/EHB-Benchmark-Coverage-of-COVID-19.pdf
These FAQs, and earlier CMS actions in response to the COVID-19 virus, are part of the ongoing White House Task Force efforts. To keep up with the important work the Task Force is doing in response to COVID-19 click here www.coronavirus.gov. For information specific to CMS, please visit the Current Emergencies Website.
March 13, 2020 - Important Conference Update - We're Going Virtual!
Friends & Colleagues,
As executive director of the NASW Virginia Chapter for 22 years, I’ve been called upon to make many tough decisions, but the decision of whether to proceed with the March 26-28 2020 Annual Conference in light of COVID-19 concerns has been one of my hardest. However, with Gov. Ralph Northam’s mandate of a Virginia state of emergency yesterday and CDC’s ever-shrinking recommendations around safe group gathering sizes, I’ve made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person conference.
We are currently exploring exciting new ways and formats to hold this event virtually, and are now in the process of making this a reality! I apologize for the lack of specifics, but it’s more important to alert you to the in-person cancellation than give technical details of our virtual event. We will hold our virtual conference at the same time as scheduled, and will be back with you in detail shortly. Please, check email regularly or visit here at the conference website!
In addition, we have cancelled the 2020 Student Conference March 26 completely, so this event will NOT be offered virtually or rescheduled. My sincere apologies to our social work students, but you are still invited to attend any reconfigured professional conference virtually that you have previously registered for.
The health and safety of attendees is always paramount, and I know that many of you are being redirected from non-essential duties to crisis management plans or are preparing for a greater need by clients who now must obtain state assistance and manage difficult mental and physical health issues at this unprecedented time. I’m also aware that many social workers are parents, and school closings may raise childcare challenges.
Social workers are some of the best crisis management professionals around—we deal with the unexpected and with emergencies every day, so our calm, our professionalism, and our training automatically kicks in. Ironically, as we celebrate Social Work Month, Virginia citizens and officials are starting to realize they need their social workers more than ever.
The COVID-19 pandemic gives our profession the chance to show our diverse skills and resilience while helping to calm a population unfamiliar with a daily life turned upside down. I have total faith and deep pride in knowing that you all are working so hard to—as ever—help others.
My only suggestion is to take care of yourself, too. Our profession is composed of givers. But we tend to give it ALL, which can lead to burnout and health problems. The self-care track at our conference was the result of suggestions from attendees last year, so in a crisis situation like today’s, ensuring that you take time to nurture yourself in whatever ways most refresh and relax you is vital to your ability to help your clients and community. And now, you will still be able to get some great self-care in our virtual environment!!
Stand by for more details soon on partial food refunds, scheduling, and more. Thank you for your patience and understanding--and a special thank-you for all you are doing to help our state weather this temporary storm. Happy Social Work Month!
Debra Riggs, CAE, Executive Director
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to Executive Director Debra Riggs at firstname.lastname@example.org