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Devereux Arizona Highlights How Social Workers are Essential to a Healthy Society
By Tobin Ernst - Monday Mar 22, 2021
From food banks, to retirement centers, counseling services and vaccinations, chances are a social worker is one of the first persons people will encounter when seeking help. Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona is helping celebrate this year’s Social Work Month in March with the theme “Social Workers are Essential” to highlight the invaluable contributions social work makes in our society—especially during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Social work is the life-blood of the human services field,” said Devereux Arizona’s Executive Director Yvette Jackson, LMSW, DBH.

The importance of social work and social workers

Social work has been around for more than a century and has made significant contributions to our nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work is one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States with approximately 700,000 professional social workers currently in our nation. That number is expected to rise to more than 800,000 by 2029.

“Social workers are everywhere,” said Jackson. “You can find a social worker in every single pocket of society.”

Social workers work in schools, helping children get the services they need to get the best possible education and improve performance. Social workers are in mental health centers and private practices, helping people overcome mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and substance use disorders. They protect children from neglect and abuse and help form new families through adoption. Social workers are in hospitals, helping patients get the best possible care not only while in treatment but when they return to their families and communities. Social workers assist with housing, homelessness, and food insecurity. And they help those cope with the loss of loved ones.

Social workers also play a vital role in community organizations and local, state and federal governments, helping create programs and policies that help make our society a better and more equitable place for all.

Devereux Arizona’s Social Workers are Essential

During the Coronavirus pandemic, social workers have also been on the front lines along with doctors, nurses, grocery store staff and other essential employees. For instance, social workers such as Allen Young, a respite social worker who has been with Devereux for more than 10 years, helps children enrolled in behavioral health services and their families take a much-needed break to recharge and renew through its Phoenix facility-based respite. Even though Devereux’s Respite Program serves hundreds of youths annually, Young and his team know most of them by their first names and know what activities best serve each youth.

Like Young, Bonnie Barnes, MSC, LPC, CCTP, NCC and BHP, has been with Devereux for more than two decades and is currently the Director of Brief Intervention Programs in Tucson. Starting as a Foster Care Specialist, Barnes had a ‘way’ with kids and later became a licensed therapist. Now, Barnes oversees the intervention program, which helps stabilize traumatized youth so they can return to their caregivers or the community. Both Young and Barnes truly care about the youth and the families they serve and will go to great lengths to accommodate those in need of services.

“At Devereux, our employees are at the heart of everything we do and are the key to our success,” said Jackson. “Our team of social workers selflessly give of themselves daily to help improve the lives of children, adolescents and adults living with emotional, behavioral and cognitive differences.”

Since the beginning of COVID-19, even before it became a pandemic in the U.S., Devereux Arizona has been a ‘first responder’ to adjusting to the new normal. At Devereux, the safety and well-being of the children, adolescents and adults entrusted to their care are always of the utmost importance. For instance, Devereux moved to telehealth in just three days to maintain consistent communication with clients and families. The statewide organization also set up tools and resources to help those needing help on managing stress and anxiety.

Social Workers on the Front Lines and Behind the Scenes

Social workers, although essential, are often unsung heroes and there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to social work.

Social workers take an evidence-based and holistic approach to care that is heavily focused on the ‘person in environment’. What this means is that social workers ascribe heavily to the philosophy that an individual can best be understood within an environmental context (family, their job, school, community etc.).

“Each person’s environment is uniquely constructed, even within the same family setting,” said Jackson.

Jackson adds, “Social service is an extremely versatile profession. Social work is not a glamorous profession. Just look at how it is depicted on television. I am proud of being a social worker. It is a soul-satisfying profession that is woven into the fabric of our society at all levels. All of us benefit from the work of professional social workers and likely don’t recognize it.”

So, the next time you meet a social worker, say a kind word to them or just thank them for their tireless service and help advocate for policies and legislation that benefit the profession and the populations they serve.