Kutztown University Social Work Community Forum focuses on healthcare policy implications

Kutztown University’s Social Work Department honored “Professional Social Work Month in Pennsylvania” by hosting a community forum to facilitate the discussion of healthcare policy implications across the practice continuum.

Held in KU’s McFarland Student Union on March 15, the forumemphasized the role of the social worker in identifying best healthcare practices, building alliances, developing action plans and creating change.

Prominent guests at the event included Associate Vice President for Geisinger Health System’s Psychiatry Division, Dr. George Godlewski; Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Health, Michael Wolf; Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Joanne Corte Grossi; and state Sen. Judy Schwank.

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In her opening remarks, Associate Professor of Social Work Dr. Sharon Lyter emphasized that the social worker is the heart and soul of the community; instrumental in promoting and implementing effective and ethical healthcare practices. Indeed, the dedication of social work practitioners and scholars was evident by the turn out at the event, which left standing room only.

However, as devoted as social workers are to the communities they work within, the economic crisis experienced by the current health care system gestures to an imminent catastrophic event.

“We are living in a tragic reality!” Godlewski said. “In our country we spend a phenomenal amount of money on the delivery of health care, and that amount of money results in poor health status. We need to do better.”

Godlewski rallied the social workers in the audience, suggesting that their professional interventions could act as a catalyst to prevent the looming disaster.

“We are living through a period of experiments,” he said. “New models will lead us to success and it’s exciting to be in the process of moving in that direction. Social workers are uniquely positioned to understand social determinants of health care and impact those in the healthcare industry.”

Forum attendees heard exciting news from acting Secretary of Health Wolf, who revealed that Pennsylvania was recently awarded a grant, only provided to 15 states, which will help fund primary care access and chronic care management.

Although Wolf cautiously approached the subject of the Affordable Care Act, since Corbett decided not to expand Medicaid coverage for eligible adults, he also reassured listeners that his office would work to improving sustainable health care practices for elderly patients.

Grossi, who followed Wolf’s presentation, was an avid supporter of the Affordable Care Act and expanding health insurance coverage, particularly for elderly constituents.

“The Affordable Care Act will rein in insurance premium rates, prevent denial of coverage, make health insurance affordable for middle class families and small businesses and shift the paradigm of Medicare to prevention,” she explained.

Additionally, Grossi discussed the implications of the act’s “federal health insurance marketplace,” which will be similar to ‘Expedia,’ in that all insurance companies will compete with each other to attract consumers, which will ultimately lower insurance premiums and increase purchasing power for individuals and small businesses.

During the event, KU students Linda Eteki (MSW), Samantha Muse (MSW) and Kataryna Evanowicz (BSW) were honored with the Department of Social Work’s Diversity Prize. Each winner received a cash award sponsored by the faculty, along with a letter of recognition from the office of Sen. Bob Casey. Carol Obando-Derstine, regional manager for Berks, Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton Counties and Latino Affairs Advisor for Sen. Casey, presented the awards, and state Sen. Judith Schwank was on hand to congratulate the winners.

The honorees, selected for their diverse academic and professional achievements, had the opportunity to present some of their individual scholastic and artistic projects to the audience.

Eteki, originally from Cameroon, narrated her PowerPoint, Celebrating and Recognizing Diversity as an African; Muse displayed photographs from a project entitled “Survival of the Littlest,” depicting her journey as a child after the loss of her mother to cancer; and Evanowicz described her art work, “The Web of Life,” a design consisting of a wood base, nails, and string, representing the diversity of the human population.