General Assembly Reconvenes; NASWVA Launches Advocacy Strategy to Protect Human Rights, Advance the Social Work Profession, and Boost Funding and Salaries
As legislators settle in for a short, 46-day General Assembly session, NASW Virginia Chapter staff and Policy Committee have been preparing for the rapid onslaught of bills on everything from reproductive rights to gun safety to professional issues. Below are some of our top policy priorities. You can read more details on each issue by clicking the button to the Policy page.:
Reproductive Justice: At least five extreme anti-abortion, anti-healthcare-provider bills were submitted for committee review in the first 48 hours of the new session, including a “life begins at conception” resolution, a ban on reproductive health activities such as providing free birth control, a 15-week abortion ban and/or total ban, criminalization of healthcare providers involved in abortion, forced birth by low-income people, and more.
LGBTQ Rights: Youngkin has already attacked transgender rights in public schools, and a bill has been introduced to ban transgender people from participating in school or youth sports. On the good side, there’s positive energy in the majority party about working to remove the state’s antiquated constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. We’ll continue to speak out about the mental and physical harm to LGBTQ populations caused by antics such as forced outing by teachers, “bathroom choice battles,” and LGBTQ book banning.
Gun Safety and Violence: The recent shooting of a teacher by a 6-year-old in Newport News is horrifying but not surprising considering Virginia has one of the least-restrictive laws in the country as related to “securing” a gun. Did you know that a gun jammed between two seats in a car is considered “secure?” There are efforts to change this, and we also will battle efforts to kill the state’s evidence-based red-flag law and reverse the ban on guns in places of worship.
Solitary Confinement: Through its leadership in coalitions, the chapter will continue its longtime fight against the ongoing misuse of solitary confinement that can result in serious, long-term mental problems by imprisoned people in our state.
Voting Rights and Engagement: Fighting against voter access restrictions such as reduced early-voter periods, fewer ballot drop-off sites, and shorter absentee ballot delivery times are among the voting rights battles expected before the general election this fall.
Mental Health Funding and Policy Changes: In December 2022, Youngkin released ”Right Help, Right Now,” a $220-million “Transformational Behavioral Health Plan” centered around new regional crisis centers, mobile crisis units, and community services boards. If approved, the chapter will be monitoring implementation with an eye toward improvements.
COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: On January 11, the 12th extension of the declaration of a U.S. public health state of emergency on COVID-19 was announced in response to rising rates of variant XBB.1.5 and the perceived economic need to continue COVID relief programs across the country, including Virginia. We will continue to advocate for telehealth permanence and other pandemic-related issues that improve access and care of clients. In addition, we continue to invite social workers to earn 5 free CEs by taking three trainings on vaccination hesitancy and skill development as part of NASW’s “Connect to End COVID-19” campaign.
These are highlights of NASWVA’s advocacy agenda. Please also join our efforts to increase affordable housing, advance racial justice and anti-discrimination laws, and fight for social justice priorities that affect our clients. Advocacy is social work! Follow @NASWVA on Instagram and Facebook, as well as on LinkedIn, to keep up with rapid changes that affect the social work profession and those we serve.
Stay Abreast of National Social Work Advocacy—Subscribe to NASW’s Action Alerts, Attend NASWVA’s Lunch and Learn
You can learn about the national NASW advocacy agenda during a Lunch and Learn with NASW Director of Public Policy Sarah Butts at NASWVA and NASW Metro DC’s Joint Annual Conference March 23-25 in person in Williamsburg and live-virtually April 20-22. Butts will cover what’s happening with interstate compact efforts, responses to the licensing exam rate pass-fail rates report by the Association of Social Work Boards, and more. Book your seat today!
You can also sign up here for national action alerts. Advocacy is the top reason why members join NASW and their local chapter, and is a core element in the Code of Ethics. Together, we can ensure the real-world expertise and experience of Virginia social workers are represented all relevant state policy making.