NASW Virginia Chapter Advocacy Center

Are you a Virginia social worker looking for opportunities to engage in social and political action? Do you want to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities that they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully?

Then join social workers across Virginia to make your voice heard
on issues related to the social work profession, priority social justice problems, and mental health and other challenges faced by your clients! Below are frequently asked questions, resource links, and a list of bills and resolutions included in the chapter’s advocacy strategy for the 2021 General Assembly, which opened January 13.

To keep up with current voting action item requests, upcoming elections, and various candidates, visit this link.

What does NASW Virginia Chapter do to influence state policy and regulations?


Advocacy on professional practices and social justice has been core to the mission of NASW and its Virginia Chapter since its inception. The chapter monitors bills; communicates chapter stances to legislators; educates elected officials on behavioral health and social justice issues; helps craft or influence bill/resolution language; and alerts and activates social workers and chapter members and students about when and how to use their power as knowledgeable

constituents to influence legislative and regulatory outcomes.


The chapter also is deeply involved in or collaborates with numerous Virginia coalitions and organizations or partners, since rarely is genuine policy progress made by advocating alone. These coalitions include the following:

  • Compassionate Choices

  • Solitary Confinement Coalition

  • Voices for Virginia’s Children

  • National Association of Mental Illness

  • Poverty Law Center

  • Equality Virginia

  • ACLU Virginia


What is the chapter doing now on advocacy?


The Virginia General Assembly is in its first 2021 session, but it’s a very short, busy session that kicked off January 13. In preparation, NASW-VA Chapter staff have been working with the chapter’s Policy Committee and board of directors to identify priority bills and issues; establish an advocacy strategy; reach out to and educate legislators, especially newly elected leaders; monitor the status of bills and resolutions; and activate members to make their voices heard via action alerts as needed.


Check this website often for updates.  

What bills are NASW Virginia tracking in the 2021 General Assembly?

Glad you asked! Here is the current list, but please be aware that bill and resolution numbers can evolve or die, new bills may emerge suddenly, etc. Advocacy work is complex and ever-shifting, and while the chapter aims to keep members as informed as possible, sometimes the speed of change and limited chapter resources mean a delay in member updates while we concentrate on executing the time-sensitive work. Below is the bill list as of January 22, 2021:


Social Justice

HB 2046: Virginia Fair Housing Law (unlawful, discriminatory housing practices). Introduced by Jeffrey Bourne.


Summary: “Prohibits any locality, its employees, or its appointed commissions from discriminating (i) in the application of local land use ordinances or guidelines, or in the permitting of housing developments, on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, or handicap or (ii) in the permitting of housing developments because the housing development contains or is expected to contain affordable housing units occupied or intended for occupancy by families or individuals with incomes at or below 80 percent of the median income of the area where the housing development is located or is proposed to be located. The bill also requires the Fair Housing Board, after determining the existence of an unlawful discriminatory housing practice and after consultation with the Attorney General, to immediately refer the matter to the Attorney General for civil action.”


HJ537: (House Joint Resolution 537): General Assembly to Recognize Racism as a Public Health Crisis.
Introduced by Lashrecse Aird.


Summary: Virginia can take steps to address systemic racism and its impact on public health, including

  1. Expand the charge of the Virginia Department of Health's Office of Health Equity to address racism as a public health crisis to ensure that statewide policy efforts are analyzed through an intersectional race equity lens and offer funding recommendations;

  2. Retain the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law as a permanent commission;

  3. Require training for elected officials, staff members, and state employees on how to recognize and combat implicit biases;

  4. Establish a glossary of terms and definitions concerning racism and health equity; and

  5. Promote community engagement, actively engage all citizens on issues of racism, and provide tools to engage actively and authentically with communities of color; now, therefore, be it


HB1980: Establishment of An Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship Program. Introduced by David Reid


Summary: Establishes the Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship Program, whereby Longwood University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Military Institute, and The College of William and Mary are required to annually provide a renewable scholarship to at least one Virginia-born African American student with a total household income that is not more than 400 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Starting in the 2022-2023 academic year and with any source of funds other than state funds or tuition or fee increases, the scholarship would cover tuition, mandatory fees, room and board, books, supplies, and tutoring at each institution.


The bill also requires the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to collaborate with these institutions to establish implementation guidelines and to annually collect and report information on its implementation to the chairs of the House Committee on Appropriations, House Committee on Education, Senate Committee on Education and Health, Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations, and Virginia African American Advisory Board.


SB1301: Use of Isolated Confinement in Correctional Facilities. Introduced by Joseph Morrissey.

Summary: Prohibits the use of isolated confinement in state correctional facilities and juvenile correctional centers. Isolated confinement is defined in the bill as “confinement of a prisoner or juvenile to a cell, alone or with another prisoner or juvenile, for 20 hours or more per day for an adult or for 17 hours or more per day for a juvenile, other than for the purpose of providing medical or mental health treatment. The bill provides exceptions for when isolated confinement may be permitted in state correctional facilities and juvenile correctional centers. If enacted, these provisions would become effective July 1, 2022.

Professional Practice


SB1273: Establishment of a Behavioral Health Commission. Introduced by: Robert Creigh Deeds.


Summary: Creates the Behavioral Health Commission in the legislative branch of state government to:


  1. study and recommend improvements in behavioral health services and the behavioral health service system in Virginia to encourage adopting of policies that increase the quality and ensure availability of the full continuum of high-quality, effective, and efficient behavioral health services for all Virginians and

  2. provide ongoing oversight of behavioral health services and the state behavioral health service system, including monitoring and evaluation of established programs, services, and delivery and payment structures and implementation of new services and initiatives in the Commonwealth, as well as recommending improvements of such programs, services, structures, and implementation.

Virginia Elder Abuse Legislation Passes

Legislation to close a loophole and strengthen ways to protect elder abuse passed unanimously and in identical form in both the Virginia House and Senate in late January. Gov. Northam is expected to sign the bill shortly.

The new law would "allow adult protective services workers to seek a temporary court protective order in emergency situations in order to safeguard incapacitated adults subjected to an act of violence, force, threat, or financial exploitation," says Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp. Sen. Mark Obenshain, (R-Harrisonburg), and Del. Mike Mullin, (D-Newport News) served as co-sponsors. 

Where can I find information about Virginia bills and learn more?


  1.  Access Virginia’s Legislative Information System: Overview of the 2021 General Assembly legislative and resolution activity with links to committees and other sources.  

  2.  Track issues and progress at LegiScan.

  3.  Find Virginia General Assembly Bills and Resolutions.

  4.  Read bill summaries here.


How can I advocate on social justice and professional practice issues in Virginia?


  1. Write, call, or visit (in non-COVID-19 times) your legislator. We encourage you to use NASW and chapter resources and research as background in formulating your personal opinion, but please know that no one is authorized to speak publicly for the chapter except the executive director and president, unless you have Virginia Chapter-specific talking points about a certain bill and a call to action. You should be clear in your communications that you are speaking as an individual Virginia social worker. Find your legislator here.

  2. Follow NASW Virginia Chapter on Facebook for policy statement updates and more advocacy news (@NASWVA). Use your social media to share NASWVA legislative alerts and updates!

  3. Read your monthly NASW Virginia newsletter to stay up to date on calls to action and advocacy issue updates—members-only.

  4. Invite social work colleagues to join NASW so they can add their voices to Virginia advocacy efforts. The more social workers who call, write, and visit, the more legislators must listen and feel prompted to act!

  5. Order the latest Social Work Speaks (12th edition releases in January/February 2021), which contains all NASW policy statements approved by the Delegate Assembly, as well as how-to information about advocating for the social work profession and your clients. All chapter policy statements and legislative/regulatory strategies must align with and/or support NASW’s national advocacy goals and current policy statements.

  6. Follow NASW on all major social media platforms to stay abreast of national advocacy opportunities and progress on the organization’s strategic priorities. You also can read Social Work Advocates and view the latest news releases.  

Advocacy Matters at the National Level

The social work profession was founded in social change. Throughout the profession’s history, social workers have sought to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources and opportunities that allow them to meet their basic needs. NASW upholds this challenge by advocating for the association to members of Congress and regulatory agencies that so often hold the authority to influence policy. 

NASW has developed a policy agenda, which asserts the association’s advocacy priorities for the legislative cycle. NASW’s policy agenda is consistent with the NASW policies in Social Work Speaks, which is developed by members of the association at Delegate Assembly.

The national website has many resources available under the Advocacy tab. Here are some quick links:

  • Want to know what the key Policy Issues are for NASW this year? Learn more here

  1. Read these Advocacy Tips.

  2. Sign up to get Legislative Alerts.

  3. Read blog entries related to advocacy.

  4. Read Advancing the American Agenda: How the Social Work Profession Will Help.

  5. Get the latest Washington Update.

  6. Check out a podcast from NASW's Social Work Talks: Episode 9 - Social Workers and Advocacy.

  7. Increasing voter participation is a social work issue. View our our webinar series on protecting voter rights, mobilizing voters, and how social workers can be social and political activists.

  8. Follow current legislation in Congress, and see how your representatives voted.

  9. View Comments and Statements signed-on by NASW to promote our public policy goals.

  10. Get involved with NASW's Political Action Committee, Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE).

  11. See which members of Congress are Social Workers!