“Reopening Ahead of a ‘Fourth Wave:’ NASW, Council of Social Work Education, and Association of Social Work Boards Issue Joint Statement on Readiness to Address Increased Mental Health Needs during Pandemic


In a statement issued in August by NASW, Council of Social Work Education, and Association of Social Work Boards, the organizations note, “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve with cases surging due to the Delta variant in a population that has yet to reach herd immunity. Evolving in tandem with the public health crisis is a deepening mental health crisis that has been dubbed COVID’s ‘fourth wave.’ … Whether in person or virtually, addressing the fourth wave will be front and center for many of us, whether we practice in schools, programs, health care facilities, child welfare settings, or private practice. CSWE and NASW stand ready to support social workers, students, and educators as they bring their valuable expertise to bear in meeting the challenges of this moment.”


The statement explains, “Students reported more mental health challenges last year compared to previous years, according to CSWE research, and more than half of educators reported that colleagues dealt with more mental health challenges…. As [governors’] Emergency Orders expire, regulators (and licensees) face new challenges to ensure practicing licensees meet jurisdictional requirements. In many cases, the EOs are expiring without a transition period. Continuity of care and continuity of billing are two concerns arising from this ‘hard stop’ ending of COVID-related licensing and practice flexibilities. The best advice for social workers practicing under emergency order provisions in a jurisdiction where you don’t hold a full license: Check with the regulatory board about next steps. “Yet for all of the challenges facing social work as we battle pandemic variants and work to reopen our schools and communities, there is encouraging news to share. People want to become social workers. Enrollment is up more than 1% at accredited social work programs for Fall 2021, according to CSWE research. Even during the pandemic, despite a nationwide 4.2% dip in post-secondary enrollment in 2020 (National Student Clearinghouse, 2021), enrollment increased at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs. “We wrote last year that the country ‘will eventually emerge from the shadow of COVID-19, and social workers will pivot again, quietly providing the vitally important services, advocacy, and leadership needed for a recovery that benefits people from every community… This is who we are.’ After we reopen and adjust to another ‘new normal,’ it is encouraging to know this is who we will continue to be.”