Legislators inspire action, dedication, commitment to Michigan people by leading change

LANSING, Mich., March 21, 2024 — Social Worker Month is well underway, and this year’s theme is Empowering Social Workers. This week House Resolution 215 was introduced to commemorate March as Social Workers Month.

Social workers are vital in our society and the work they do, while often unseen, is irreplaceable. They are involved in many different facets of daily life — from helping individuals secure affordable housing to providing support during the most trying of times — they are there,” said state Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City), BSW and HR 215 sponsor.

Social workers play an altruistic role in society across the nation, from families to individuals. They practice in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, senior centers, private practices, prisons, military, corporations and both public and private institutions. The state of Michigan has over 30,000 licensed social workers.

“As a former child welfare specialist, I am well aware of the demands, experiences and heavy situations that social workers endure. Their roles are vital to our communities, our people and our children here in Michigan,” said state Rep. Kimberly Edwards (D-Eastpointe), MSW. “From late night calls to navigating protective services, foster care or adoption — social workers are there every step of the way. This month, we thank our social workers for their tireless dedication to our state and unwavering commitment to supporting their communities.”

Edwards sponsored one of two House bills to help support social worker licensing. House Bills 5184 and 5185 together would add clinical social workers to the list of Michigan’s licensed social workers. These bills address the critical need of adding more mental health professionals in Michigan.

“As a mental health practitioner, I can say quite easily, I am passionate about people, their wellbeing and mental health. I am proud to be a therapist and legislator,” said state Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Township), MSW and Psy.D. “As Behavioral Health Subcommittee chair, the committee heard many impactful bills that would provide the tools and regulations that support both Michiganders and social workers. I am eager to continue to work for Michiganders’ mental health, enact legislation to prevent violence and ensure communities receive the type of help they need.”

The most recent state budget invested in the mental health of Michigan kids by adding several new programs in schools and brought larger investments in existing mental health programs. These include $150 million for per-student grants to districts to address student mental health and $50 million to expand Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students. This program has worked to increase delivery of evidence-based mental health services in schools by providing training, resources and implementation support to teachers and school staff.

“From our work with individuals and families, to supporting communities and nonprofits, and even crafting and implementing state-wide policy, a month doesn’t feel long enough to honor social workers. Having social workers in the Legislature ensures that our social justice and people-centered focus drives policy that truly improves the well-being of all Michiganders,” said state Rep. Carrie A. Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor), MSW, MPH.

“Social workers provide critical support, services, and advocacy to individuals, families, and communities across Michigan. This March, we recognize and celebrate the more than 30,000 social workers and 6,500 students in social worker programs across the state. Together, we can all continue Empowering Social Workers through increasing salaries, creating leadership opportunities, reducing professional barriers, and enhancing access to care,” said Duane Breijak, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers-Michigan.