Social workers are key part of solution to mental health crisis

Maurizio Fava’s December 13 op-ed, “The Nation’s Mental Health Crisis: A Pandemic Within an Epidemic,” spoke of many facts, including the incredibly high rate of suicide in the United States, and the worsening of COVID-19 in many mental health experiences and shortages. Current and prospect in psychiatrists and psychiatrists. A major omission, however, is the fact that licensed social workers provide a significant amount of behavioral health in Massachusetts and nationally—an estimated more than 60 percent of mental health services.

Thousands of social workers provide mental health and substance abuse services; Thousands of others provide preventive or interventional services to children and families in the community, school, and practice in hospital settings. Increasingly, social workers are being integrated with physician practices to assess and provide for mental health needs.

Many social workers in community or private settings also accept insurance, consistent with the ethics of serving all clients. In Massachusetts, many of the 6,300 state chapter members of the National Association of Social Workers offer social work practice at the community or private sector level. The class offers a free therapy referral service to connect those who seek help with private providers in their area who accept caller insurance.

The demand for social workers has grown significantly in the past decade. Therefore, when Vava calls for a “bold approach, with joint efforts to help . . . from all stakeholders,” I hope it brings social workers to the table and as part of a preventive and curative solution.

Marie Byrne


The writer is associate professor emeritus in the Salem State University School of Social Work and a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

My social work colleagues and I share the alarm raised by Maurizio Fava regarding the lack of adequate outpatient and inpatient mental health care. Psychological distress has been exacerbated in particular by the fallout from the pandemic. The lack of fair compensation from health insurance companies reflects our culture’s persistent misunderstanding of the fact that the pain of mental and emotional disorders can be compared to the physical pain of patients’ lives. The administrative hurdles created by insurers and licensing requirements (such as licensing from one state to another) are also familiar to us.

However, the reader can get a wrong impression from his article that only psychiatrists and psychologists provide mental health services. A large proportion of agency, hospital, and private practice psychotherapy is provided by master’s-level social workers trained as licensed and similarly qualified mental health clinicians and counsellors. Patients find that our skills and experience are well worth seeking out and I believe your readers who have sought treatment with us will confirm this.

Laurie Van Loon


The author is a licensed independent clinical social worker.

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