NAMI-NYC Supports Eliminating Exam Requirement for Licensed Master Social Workers - National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City , Inc.

NAMI-NYC Supports Eliminating Exam Requirement for Licensed Master Social Workers

New York, NY, April 9, 2024–The National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City (NAMI-NYC) and partners support The Social Work Workforce Act (S5975/A5291). This bill will repeal the unnecessary requirement of the licensing exam, which has disproportionately barred Black, brown, and older test takers from receiving their license—despite graduating from accredited Masters’ program.  

The exam adds undue financial burden onto social work candidates, contributing to both racial disparities in the field and a continued shortage of culturally responsive social workers. 80% of social workers deliver essential services in communities of color—and research shows that the most effective social workers speak the languages of their clients and reflect their experiences. Graduates of accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) programs should be licensed upon graduation and able to serve the community immediately.  

NASW Chapter; the National Association of Social Workers, New York State Chapter (NASW-NYS): “NASW NYS strongly supports the elimination of the entry level exam as a requirement for licensure in New York State. The current exam structure, characterized by evident racial disparities and barriers to access, poses a significant obstacle to the recruitment and retention of social workers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds and bilingual individuals. In a time of escalating mental health crises and homelessness, the shortage of qualified social workers, especially those with language fluency and cultural competency, undermines social workers’ ability to effectively serve clients and communities.” 

The Latino Social Work Coalition, Luisa Lopez, President: The Latino Social Work Coalition applauds NAMI-NYC’s support and urges lawmakers to prioritize the passage of the Social Work Workforce Act during this legislative session. Together, we can build a more inclusive and equitable social work workforce and dismantle barriers that disproportionately hinder the success of Black, Latino, and non-native English-speaking graduates in obtaining licensure as master social workers. We look forward to working together to ensure that our communities get the culturally competent social work workforce needed to address the mental health crisis that is affecting New York State. 

Social Workers for Justice New York, Jacqueline Mondros, Executive Director: “Social Workers for Justice supports Governor Hochul’s focus on New York State’s mental health crisis, and it’s our workforce that will heed that call and fill those positions.  New York simply cannot afford to lose so many social workers, particularly Black and Brown ones, because of an exam which has absolutely no scientific credibility.”  

Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas: “We cannot continue to cry wolf on the various crises in our state – the mental health crisis, the overdose crisis, and homelessness – and at the same time continue to allow a biased exam to keep prepared professionals from entering the workforce. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) has put out data itself that demonstrates that social workers of color, social workers who are older, and those for whom their first language is not English are disproportionately failing the exam. It is not a question of resources. The fact is that standardized licensing exams do nothing to improve the quality of care but rather keep diverse social workers out of our communities when we need them the most. It is time to eliminate the LMSW exam requirement and let social workers get to work.” 

Join us on Monday, April 29, 6:15-7:45 PM for a virtual event discussing the Association of Social Work Board (ASWB)’s social work licensing exam, its history, and barriers to BIPOC social workers entering the field as licensed professionals. NAMI-NYC will be joined by Social Workers for Justice, The Latino Social Work Coalition and Scholarship Fund, The National Association of Social Workers, New York State Chapter (NASW-NYS), and NAMI-NYS. Register now

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