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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Social Work Summit opens dialogue among legislators, profession's leaders

ALBUQUERQUE - A proposal to change existing licensure laws and plans to meet again in April were two of the outcomes of the first Social Work Summit at the New Mexico State University-Albuquerque Center.

A select group of professional social workers, social work educators and students, and human service leaders gathered to begin addressing issues confronting their profession.

"We have begun a process that will allow the many different facets of our profession to hold open dialogue about the issues we are facing," said Wanda Whittlesey-Jerome, Albuquerque site coordinator for New Mexico State University's School of Social Work. Whittlesey-Jerome was one of the presenters at the meeting called by two prominent New Mexico legislators: State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino and State Rep. Antonio Lujan.

Joyce Kaser, an Albuquerque business and training consultant, led a discussion in which key areas were identified for further study: licensing and education; recruitment, retention and compensation; the new behavioral health plan in New Mexico; and elevating the status of the social work profession. Loan forgiveness also was a topic for consideration.

"The summit participants discussed issues embedded in these five areas, as well as possible solutions, what barriers might deter implementation of the solutions and what resources exist that could support the resolution of the problems," Whittlesey-Jerome said. "They also brainstormed who else needs to be involved in the discussions, what the next steps are for each topic group and who would be that group's contact person."

One solution to a problem for the profession will be addressed by Rep. Lujan during the 2007 session of the New Mexico Legislature.

"After hearing the problems associated with the state limiting its provisional license to practice to six months, participants agreed the period needs to be extended to a year, and the legislators were receptive to the idea," Whittlesey-Jerome said. "In the recent past, this period was extended from three months to six months, but this still is not long enough for many social work graduates to pass the state examination. A year is a more reasonable time frame, considering that oftentimes a social worker must pass the examination in order to keep a new job."

The legislators will reconvene on April 17. The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department will host the meeting. A select group of social workers from across New Mexico will be invited by the legislators early next year to form an ad-hoc steering committee to determine the future direction and agenda for the next summit. It is planned that each year, two summits will be held, one in April, and one in September, with the steering committee meeting in the interim to plan for the future.

Jane Moorman
Dec. 18, 2006