NASW Virginia Distributes Social Work Month Press Release to Educate Public about Social Workers as Important Advocates, Resources


The NASW Virginia Chapter asks members to keep an eye out for articles published in local newspapers, magazines, and elsewhere that are or could be based on its press release sent statewide March 2 to 155 print media and wire services. The release aims to increase awareness of what social workers do, why the public is encouraged to tap into these professionals for their advocacy abilities and resource knowledge, and what Social Work Month and its "Social Workers Are Essential" theme mean.

Please send any print or digital articles mentioning Social Work Month or content from below to Executive Director Debra Riggs, CAE, driggs.naswva@socialworkers.org. The chapter also invites members to cut and paste the release to send to their own media contacts!

Social Work Month in March Showcases the Many Roles of Virginia’s “Unsung Heroes” in Providing Mental and Behavioral Health Care


RICHMOND, VA—The Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and its nearly 3,000 members are celebrating Social Work Month this March with the national theme “Social Workers Are Essential.” The campaign educates the public about social workers as advocates and resources, and highlights the valuable contributions social workers make statewide, especially during the pandemic.

Social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the U.S, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rising from a current 700,000 to an estimated 800,000 professionals by 2029. Virginia has nearly 10,000 licensed clinical social workers, and demand for social work services continues to outpace availability of behavioral health providers.

“Few people realize that social work professionals comprise the largest behavioral health group in the country, or that many of our members work alongside doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers, thus experiencing similar risks and exhaustion,” says Executive Director Debra Riggs, CAE. “The profession has exploded over the past decade and is poised to grow exponentially. Even Ashley Biden, daughter of President Biden, is a social worker!”

Riggs notes that Virginia social workers “have worked extra-long hours and executed a radical pivot to telehealth to respond to skyrocketing public needs for more mental and behavioral health services in our state. We are grateful that the General Assembly, Gov. Northam, and leaders such as Sen. Creigh Deeds recently boosted funding and established a new oversight entity to strengthen Virginia’s mental health care systems.”

While TV and movie versions of social workers have generated an unfair stereotype of these professionals as people “who just take away kids from their families,” social workers are embedded in many work settings throughout society. They provide mental health and substance use disorder treatment, assist active military and veterans, help schoolchildren, transition the returns to society of people who have been imprisoned, help corporations better serve communities, and protect children from neglect and abuse. They also work in nonprofits, private practice, the court system, and local and state agencies.

However, the profession has other challenges beyond public confusion. A severe shortage of social workers in schools, colleges, and universities has often left young people inadequately supported when faced with complicated issues such as trauma, addiction, anxiety, loneliness, grief, and online learning stressors—all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

And although social workers play a critical role in the nation’s health care system, they could and should be much better compensated for their efforts, according to a 2019 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

“We hope Social Work Month will help the public realize that social workers are highly educated and well-trained professionals who subscribe to one of the healthcare industry’s most stringent codes of ethics,” says Riggs. “People should feel confident turning to social workers, who work tirelessly to advocate for their clients and communities.”

She notes that “social workers often are unsung heroes, and their natural tendency toward humility and discretion mean their extraordinary work is often undervalued or unseen. Please consider saying a kind word to the social workers in your lives and at work, especially during Social Work Month. Like our chapter, they are always fighting for policies that benefit families, individuals, and the vulnerable populations they serve such as children and older adults.”