INDIANAPOLIS – Those who provide comfort and protection for Hoosiers in crisis say they need more support in their efforts.
March is National Professional Social Work Month, and in Indiana, about 8,000 licensed social workers provide assistance in schools, hospitals, mental health facilities, and social-service agencies. Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers in Indiana Beryl Cohen says it’s a high-stress job that comes with inadequate pay.
“We’re not seeing the salaries that we should be seeing based on our education and our licensing,” says Cohen. “We step into this because we really believe in what we do. And that passion is good, but believing doesn’t put a meal on your table. And one of the biggest challenges is having people seeing us as well-trained professionals.”
Cohen says social-worker pay lags behind other professions that perform similar duties. The average annual salary for social workers in Indiana is $42,000, compared with about $57,000 for a teacher and $70,000 for a registered nurse.
The CEO of the National Association of Social Workers, Angelo McClain, notes that social workers are the largest providers of mental health services and also on the front lines of the opioid crisis.
“Social workers are providing the mental-health and substance-abuse services and also child protective services for those families as well,” says McClain. “This one social problem has a ripple effect, and social workers are front and center on helping address those issues.”
Congress is considering measures to better support the profession, including HR 1289 that would offer resources to recruit more social workers and HR 1309, which calls for workplace violence prevention plans at social service agencies.