By Kay Paksoy Castillo, BSW, Director of Advocacy, Policy, and Legislation, Registered Lobbyist, National Association of Social Workers, North Carolina Chapter (NASW-NC)
On March 1, 2022, Governor Roy Cooper declared March as Social Work Month. Social Work Month is a time to honor the nation’s 720,000 social work professionals. Each day social workers touch millions of lives. In fact, you, a family member, or a friend have likely already been helped by a social worker. You will find social workers in every community, working in schools, hospitals, mental health care facilities, veteran centers, child welfare agencies, programs for older adults and in local, state, and federal governments.
In North Carolina, there are over 13,594 Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) and Licensed Clinical Social Work Associates (LCSWA) providing behavioral health services across the state. This number does not encompass the non-licensed social workers that are working tirelessly in our communities to improve the lives of others.
This year’s Social Work Month theme is “The Time is Right for Social Work.” This theme resonates because social workers are on the frontlines helping our nation overcome a variety of current challenges – the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and accessing healthcare including improving the delivery of mental and behavioral health care across the country and state.
To deliver care, North Carolina social workers need another tool in our toolbox — expanded Medicaid. Medicaid expansion would reduce financial barriers to care and increase the number of behavioral health providers that accept Medicaid. Research conducted in states that closed their health insurance coverage gap concluded that people with mental illness are more likely to use mental health services, are less likely to delay necessary care, and have better access to prescriptions.
With our partner organizations, we are advocating to bring Medicaid expansion to North Carolina. This is why the National Association of Social Workers North Carolina joined Care4Carolina in its early years as we saw the need to bring diverse voices, not just those of social workers, but those individuals and families social workers serve in communities to bring Medicaid expansion to our state.
Just like the time is right for social work, the time is right to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.