Welcome to the New 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.
Every Virginia social worker, not just NASW members, should have access to the best information during this emergency, so please bookmark this public site, so you can check back often.
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.
Thank you for all you are doing as a social worker. Please take care of yourself, too, so you can stay healthy and function at your best. If you have any questions, please email me at email@example.com.
--Debra Riggs, CAE
Executive Director, NASW Virginia Chapter
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