ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS LAUNCHES AWARENESS EFFORT AMID GROWING MENTAL HEALTH, SOCIAL ISSUES & HEALTH COST CONCERNS
Today signals the start Social Work Week in the province (March 5-11). It also marks a new chapter for the Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW), representing 5,300+ social workers in the province, as they highlight the positive findings from a recent pilot study in Toronto Emergency Departments and their landmark public awareness efforts aimed at identifying the unique training and expertise social workers provide. Today’s announcement comes at a time when Ontarians are talking more – about mental health, stigma, addiction, sexual assault, as well as everyday issues from bullying to aging parents – and are seeking accessible care and support.
“We’re at a crossroads: a highly engaged public and competing needs for limited resources,” says Joan MacKenzie Davies, Chief Executive Officer, OASW. She adds: “Social workers have been vital to our health care and social service systems for decades, yet often not vocal about the valuable results we’re delivering or our unique training, expertise, and contributions.”
ABOUT THE STUDY & RESULTS
A three-month pilot (2015)* saw a full-time social worker placed in the Emergency Departments (ED) at two high-volume Toronto hospitals, during peak periods of use. The pilots focused primarily on providing care to senior patients with complex care needs, particularly those who presented with psychosocial issues, had a history of mental illness and/or were living with addiction. The first phase results found front-line social workers in this role led to:
- the prevention of repeat ED visits and avoidable admissions through provision of enhanced supports and by connecting individuals with resources and care in their communities
- this admission avoidance translated into significant cost-savings, which was estimated at $1.4M when annualized at the two sites, in addition to an estimated 1700 inpatient days avoided across both hospitals,
OASW is the largest provincial social work association of its kind in Canada. It is also the first association representing social workers to launch a public awareness effort that puts critical healthcare issues and the profession’s unique training on the same platform. “Social workers are on the front line of real issues that the province and the public are grappling with: from hospital discharge planning and crisis counselling to rehabilitation, addiction and mental health. Until now the profession has been less outspoken about our value but protecting public health and awareness of the profession’s broad scope of practice go hand in hand,” says MacKenzie Davies.
The recent passing of the Controlled Act of Psychotherapy in Ontario affirms the role of social workers as experts in mental health, equipped to deal with an array of mental health issues. MacKenzie Davies adds, “social workers bring a unique and critical lens to psychotherapy and other approaches to care. Conversations about mental health are more relevant than ever. The public should know that social workers are not only listening, we are here to help with the key issues they might be facing, including stress, anxiety, and depression. OASW will continue its efforts to increase public awareness about how highly-skilled social workers are turning the issues facing Ontarians into answers.”
Starting in 2016, OASW has been sharing awareness-focused promotional materials in urban centres and more recently via social media based on true stories of how social work interventions have made a difference in people’s lives. Two new videos to soon be released will touch on social workers helping address equally critical issues – relationship counselling and hospital discharge planning.