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Baker to Address GSSW Forum on Health Care Reform

Gubernatorial candidate and former Harvard Pilgrim CEO Charles D. Baker Jr. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Feb. 13, 2014

Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate and former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO Charles D. Baker Jr. will present the keynote address at a Feb. 24 forum on health care reform sponsored by the Graduate School of Social Work.

In addition to the talk by Baker, the event will feature a panel discussion on the roles social workers can – and should -– play as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins to exert a greater influence on the health care landscape. National Association of Social Workers CEO Angelo McClain PhD ’01, former commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, will serve as moderator.

 “Health Care Reform: From Policy to Practice,” which is free and open to the public (registration is required), will take place from 1:30-4 p.m. in the Heights Room of Corcoran Commons. A reception for McClain will follow immediately.

“This is a very timely conversation,” said forum organizer GSSW Associate Professor of Macro Practice and former Massachusetts Commissioner of Mental Health Marylou Sudders, who will offer introductory remarks at the event. “One of the key aspects of the ACA is it promotes the integration of physical and behavioral health care – treating the whole person, not just managing symptoms.

“Social work, as a unique discipline that combines clinical and policy practice, stands to make a vital contribution to this new era of health care,” said Sudders, who serves on the Commonwealth’s Health Policy Commission. “So it’s very appropriate for GSSW to host an event on health care reform.”  

Sudders said the forum will benefit from the presence of Baker, whose extensive experience in the public and private sectors includes serving as secretary of administration and finance under two governors and more recently as an entrepreneur-in-residence at the venture capital firm General Catalyst Partners.

“Health care access, quality and cost are pressing issues in the Commonwealth and across the nation,” she said. “Charlie has impressive credentials, having led Harvard Pilgrim to become the top-ranked health plan in the US. He knows the public and private aspects of health care. So the opportunity to hear his perspective on health care reform, as he campaigns to be the Commonwealth’s next governor, will be of great interest to the public as well as to practitioners.”

Baker will present “Social and Health Care: One View of the Future” for about 30 minutes and participate in a Q&A.

The panel discussion will offer a “boots on the ground” view of social work in the ACA era, said Sudders. The four panelists – Carol Kress, Mary Neagle, Rebecca Osario and J. Scott Turton – are all trained social workers involved in innovative pilot programs and initiatives that use the integrated physical-behavioral health model to address physical and mental health-related issues such as addiction.

Turton, for example, directs efforts to integrate addiction treatment with primary care as an administrator at Gosnold Addiction Treatment Center on Cape Cod. As co-director of the Integrative Care Management Program for Partners Health Care, Neagle – who along with Osario is a GSSW alumna – works to improve hospital discharge policies so as to decrease the likelihood of readmissions.

“It is crucial for social workers to be engaged in health care reform,” Sudders said. “The more that health care costs eat up state and federal budgets, the less there is for other resources and services that social workers seek for their clients. We feel this forum will show how social work is integral to the success of health care reform.”