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Written by Elisa Lewis, MSW, LCSW, Brown & Toland Physicians

March is National Social Work Month, a time to recognize the powerful, positive impact social workers have on their patients and their communities.

Social workers everywhere work hard to ensure all people are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 700,000 social workers employed in the United States and Brown & Toland is lucky to have four dedicated, passionate social workers in the Outpatient Care Management department.

And while having  passion and dedication for helping others is important, being a social worker requires so much more. People who are experiencing the most vulnerable time in their lives rely on social workers to connect them with resources and find solutions to complex problems. Social workers use their skills and expertise to promote good mental health, strengthen relationships, and end generational cycles of trauma and substance use, with the goal of creating healthier families and communities.

A strong focus at Brown & Toland is addressing social determinants of health (SDoH), because we know that issues such as economic stability, education, health care, physical environment, and community all play a part in reducing disparities in our communities.

But social workers’ life-changing work doesn’t stop there.  At Brown & Toland, “social workers also assist members  with behavioral health education and linkage, housing insecurities and caregiver referrals,” said Brown & Toland social worker Yet Ly. “What many people don’t know is that we also direct members to incarceration, legal, transportation and immigrant resources when they need them.”

And fighting for social justice is a core ethical requirement of all social workers, including those at Brown & Toland.  Their role is to fight through policy practice and policy advocacy to help members advocate for themselves. “Social workers are social justice warriors and healers at heart,” said Brown & Toland social worker Kendra Bridges. “We took an oath to ‘do no harm’ when entering this great profession and it’s a vow that informs everything that we do.”

With the traumatic events happening in the world today, many people are feeling anger, grief, loss, depression and hopelessness, while others feel unsafe and unheard. Now, more than ever, it is important to create safe spaces for those who need to feel heard, a skill social workers must also possess.

“It’s not that social workers have all the answers to hard questions, because we don’t,” said Brown & Toland social worker Erika Lyla. “However, we are able to hold space for those individuals who are seeking answers to tough questions, this was especially true throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and those dealing with systemic racism, economic inequality, and injustice.”

Elisa Lewis is a social worker with Brown & Toland Physicians and serves as the first vice president of the National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter.  Elisa, a Bay Area native, has been a part of the Brown & Toland Physicians community for two-and-a-half  years.

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