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Mass. Gubernatorial Candidate Makes Case for Social Work Role in New Health Care Era

keynote address at boston college graduate school of social work forum on health care reform


CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (Feb. 24, 2014) — Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Charles D. Baker Jr., speaking at a Boston College Graduate School of Social Work forum on Monday, said social workers have a unique role to play in patient care in the Affordable Care Act era.

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Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Charles D. Baker Jr. spoke on Monday at “From Policy to Practice: Health Care Reform,” a forum organized by the Graduate School of Social Work at Boston College. (Photo by Frank Curran)

“When I think of social workers, I think of problem-solvers,” Baker, former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, told an audience of nearly 300 at Boston College, where he lauded social workers’ ability to “stitch clinical and social service issues together with real-life implications.

“They deal with the complexity of problems that don’t fit neatly into categories.”

Baker delivered the keynote speech at Health Care Reform: From Policy to Practice, a forum organized by the graduate school to examine the potential roles and challenges for social workers in the wake of the Affordable Care Act.

National Association of Social Workers CEO Angelo McClain led a panel discussion on the topic with social work leaders. Graduate School of Social Work Dean Alberto Godenzi and forum organizer Associate Professor of Macro Practice Marylou Sudders gave welcoming remarks at the start of the event.

Instead of delivering “a political stump speech,” Baker said he wanted to offer his views on the ACA’s impact on social work and social workers, particularly in the areas of care management and therapy. He identified the expansion of coverage, the creation of health exchanges and cuts in Medicare as the “three big pieces” of ACA that would offer challenges and opportunities for social workers.

For example, expanded coverage would make more people eligible for care and treatment, he said, but also create potential dilemmas for what services can be provided, and in which form. Given this scenario, Baker strongly endorsed an emphasis on team-based approaches to health care issues, with specifically defined roles for each health care professional involved, and with measurement of outcomes built into the system.

Social workers would be a vital part of such cross-disciplinary work, he said, because their training tends to prepare them for a team-based approach better in comparison to other professions. “If everyone has a role, and if everyone plays a role, good things happen. This is a tremendous opportunity for all of you.”

About the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work: A global leader in social work education, the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work provides experience-based MSW and PhD degree programs to more than 500 students, produces leading research that advances the field and actively fulfills its Jesuit, Catholic mission of social justice through service and partnerships.