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New Mexico State University

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Lawmakers convene social work summit at NMSU's Albuquerque Center

ALBUQUERQUE - With recent issues such as questions over the mental health treatment of murder suspect John Hyde and the advent of policies such as Kendra's Law appearing in the news these days, New Mexico leaders, practitioners, and students of social work are expressing concerns about the impact of current changes on their profession and the clients they serve.


To address these concerns, State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Bernalillo, and State Rep. Antonio Lujan, D-Dona Ana, are convening a first-ever social work summit on Monday, Dec. 4, at the New Mexico State University-Albuquerque Center.

A select group of professional social workers, social work educators and students, and human service leaders will meet to discuss the current conditions facing social workers and the implications of recent changes on client services in New Mexico.

"The purpose of the summit is to get the stakeholders together regarding the social work profession in New Mexico to explore if we need to take a new direction or keep on the way we have been," said Ortiz y Pino. "This will be the first of many discussions."

Lujan added that the leaders have some concerns regarding issues facing the social work profession and their clients that they want to discuss in an open dialogue.

Ortiz y Pino and Lujan serve as advisers to the interim Legislative Health & Human Services Committee. Both hold master's of social work degrees and serve as role models for social work students across the state.

The summit attendees will consist of a culturally diverse group of social workers and human service leaders from across New Mexico, including for-profit and non-profit organizations, the National Association of Social Workers New Mexico Chapter, the New Mexico Board of Social Worker Examiners and higher education institutions.

Wanda Whittlesey-Jerome, site coordinator for the NMSU School of Social Work's Master Social Worker Program in Albuquerque, said those attending the summit will include deans and directors of social work programs, as well as undergraduate and graduate social work students, who will represent their institution's programs and give their perspective to the issues facing the profession and its clients.

"We will talk about the trends in employment, workforce development and licensing that face our profession, along with the changes in behavioral health care in New Mexico, and how all of these issues relate to quality and effectiveness of client service," Whittlesey-Jerome said. The event will be facilitated by Joyce Kaser, Albuquerque business and training consultant.

Steve Johnson, Gov. Bill Richardson's newly appointed CEO of the Behavioral Health Collaborative of New Mexico, has been invited to speak about the future of behavioral health care and services in the state.

"New Mexico is going through a significant transformation on how health service is being delivered. I want to see if we can integrate the social work profession's experience and approaches to the behavioral health transformation," Johnson said.

"There is wisdom from the social work profession's experience that we can learn from and by working with them it will help improve the health services across the board," Johnson said.

The event will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4, at the NMSU-Albuquerque Center, 2444 Louisiana NE, Suite 120.