Substance abuse | SOCW 6351 – Social Policy, Welfare, and Change | Walden University

 

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is perceived in a variety of ways by different entities. The court system may view substance abuse as a criminal activity. The medical and social work fields may view it as evidence of a disease or disorder. Uninformed individuals may view substance abuse as a personal choice or weakness. Decisions about how to address and respond to this social problem influence the development of effective policies.

This week, you explore the impact of drug policies on clients and populations. You identify the ethical obligations of social workers in changing drug policies. You also identify a social justice issue for which you can advocate and write a letter to a legislative representative.

 

Learning Resources

Note: To access this week’s required library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus.

Required Readings

Beerma, D. (2012). Advocacy handbook for social workers. National Association of Social Workers – North Carolina Chapter. Retrieved fromhttp://c.ymcdn.com/sites/naswnc.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/Advocacy/Advocacyhandbook.pdf

Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. M. (Eds.). (2014). Social work case studies: Foundation year. Baltimore: MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. [Vital Source e-reader].
“Working with Clients with Dual Diagnosis: The Case of Joe” (pp. 77–78)

Popple,  P. R., & Leighninger, L. (2019). The policy-based profession: An  introduction to social welfare policy analysis for social workers (7th  ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Chapter 8, “Mental Health and Substance Abuse” (pp. 161-191)

Humphreys, K., & McLellan, A. T. (2011). A policy-oriented review of strategies for improving the outcomes of services for substance use disorder patients. Addiction, 106(12), 2058–2066.
Note: Retrieved from Walden Library databases.

 

Drug Policies and Ethics

The NASW Code of Ethics provides social workers with guidelines and standards for interacting with clients, colleagues, communities, and society, as a whole. These standards govern interactions and professional behavior of social work practitioners. The NASW has also developed specific standards, which are published in the NASW Standards for Social Work Practice With Clients With Substance Use Disorders. These standards emphasize the importance of the competence of social workers. The standards indicate that social workers should be knowledgeable of evidence-based interventions for substance disorders. The confidentiality standard becomes essential as social workers must be informed and comply with federal, state, and local laws about substance use, as well as third-party payee regulations.

For this Discussion, review this week’s resources, including the case Working with Clients with Dual Diagnosis: The Case of Joe,and consider how social policies affect Joe’s circumstances as described in the case study. Then, think about any gaps in service you found in Joe’s case. Finally, reflect on how you might address these gaps or make changes to the policies that affect Joe.

 

Working With Clients With Dual Diagnosis: The Case of Joe

Joe is a 34-year-old, Caucasian male who came to the County Division of Social Services to apply for General Assistance (GA) benefits. The GA program provides cash assistance, Medicaid coverage, and housing for homeless single adults. Joe is in need of Medicaid benefits in order to remain active in his treatment program. Joe is receiving treatment at the Mentally Ill Chemical Abuser (MICA) partial hospitalization program at the local community mental health center for clients who are dually diagnosed. Joe has a dependence on marijuana, although he has stopped using it for approximately six months, and has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder. He is being prescribed medication.

Joe reports that he is unable to work due to mental illness, and without an income or health insurance, he is unable to obtain his medication. Joe reports that while he was enrolled as a student at the state university, he would sell marijuana to other college students. Eventually, he was arrested and convicted of possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) and served 3 years in prison. Joe has had no further arrests; however, he has not been able to secure permanent housing or employment since his release.

Joe reports that this event has ruined his life. His lack of employment results from an inability to pass most background checks. If he discloses that he was arrested, Joe reports that he is never called for interviews. But when he once failed to disclose the information to the prospective employer, Joe was terminated for lying on his application. Joe believes that he has little hope for future employment.

Joe has few natural supports in his life. He reports that following the incarceration, his family distanced itself from him and his girlfriend at the time broke up with him. He reports that his only supports are his local Narcotics Anonymous (NA) sponsor and his mental health counselor. Joe reports that his housing situation has been unstable and sporadic for the past 10 years.

Joe’s mental health counselor from the MICA program has contacted me to advocate for Joe’s approval for benefits. I explained that under the current state regulations, Joe is ineligible for benefits due to his CDS distribution conviction. The only program options that I can offer him are food stamps and access to a homeless shelter outside of the county. The counselor explained that relocation would cause a disruption to Joe’s mental health treatment and would cause him to lose contact with his local NA sponsor.

In response to the counselor’s concerns, I suggested that Joe contact the local faith-based organization for assistance. Although they do not house single males, they have an extensive network of volunteers, mentors, and donors who may financially support people in need. I referred Joe to a program that offers bonding to people seeking employment who have been previously incarcerated. Finally, I suggested that the counselor research Joe’s ability to remain in treatment at the hospital despite his lack of Medicaid coverage. The counselor agreed to assist Joe with these suggestions.

By Day 3

Post an explanation of how drug policies affect Joe’s circumstances, as described in the case study. Then, explain any gaps in service you found in Joe’s case as a result of the drug policies described in the case study. Finally, describe a strategy you might use to address these gaps or make changes to the policies that affect Joe.

 

In social work, advocacy is very important to promote social change. Letters are often used as an effective tool to bring attention to social justice issues. This assignment requires you to choose a social justice issue that is important to you, gather current research and data on the subject matter, and write a one page professional and formal letter to your elected local, state, or national representative responsible for your social justice matter you have identified.

Choose a social welfare problem that you believe is in need of change and write a letter to an elected local, state, or federal official regarding the issue you have chosen. You are not required to send the letter; however, it must be written in a professional, well organized, clear, and concise format.

Writing letters to public officials is a form of political advocacy for clients and social workers. For this Assignment, you will write an advocacy letter to public official about a problem and a policy. In addition, you will write a 1-2 page explanation of your letter. Your explanation will provide the rationale behind your chosen issue and the approach you took with the specific representative.

By Day 7

Assignment: In the same document, submit both Part I and II of the assignment (2-4 pages):

Part I: Letter to Representative

Your letter should include:

  • A description of the social welfare issue
  • An explanation of how you want the legislator to respond to the issue (vote, create legislation, hold public hearings, etc.) and why.
  • Support of your viewpoints with credible facts and research.

Part II: Explanation (1-2 pages, double-space, APA format)

For this part of the assignment, provide an explanation of:

  • Why you selected the issue
  • How the issue affects social work
  • The reason you chose the specific representative
  • The approach you took with the representative (consider the representative’s voting history, political affiliation, and any other factors you considered)

Support your post with specific references to the resources. Be sure to provide full APA citations for your references.

By Day 5

Read a selection of your colleagues’ posts.

Respond to at least two colleagues with a critique of the gaps in service they identified for Joe. Then, describe a substance abuse or drug policy that you believe is unjust or disproportionately affects a certain group or population. Finally, describe the ethical obligations of social workers to make changes to substance abuse policies.

Assignment

 

In social work, advocacy is very important to promote social change. Letters are often used as an effective tool to bring attention to social justice issues. This assignment requires you to choose a social justice issue that is important to you, gather current research and data on the subject matter, and write a one page professional and formal letter to your elected local, state, or national representative responsible for your social justice matter you have identified.

Choose a social welfare problem that you believe is in need of change and write a letter to an elected local, state, or federal official regarding the issue you have chosen. You are not required to send the letter; however, it must be written in a professional, well organized, clear, and concise format.

Writing letters to public officials is a form of political advocacy for clients and social workers. For this Assignment, you will write an advocacy letter to public official about a problem and a policy. In addition, you will write a 1-2 page explanation of your letter. Your explanation will provide the rationale behind your chosen issue and the approach you took with the specific representative.

By Day 7

Assignment: In the same document, submit both Part I and II of the assignment (2-4 pages):

Part I: Letter to Representative

Your letter should include:

  • A description of the social welfare issue
  • An explanation of how you want the legislator to respond to the issue (vote, create legislation, hold public hearings, etc.) and why.
  • Support of your viewpoints with credible facts and research.

Part II: Explanation (1-2 pages, double-space, APA format)

For this part of the assignment, provide an explanation of:

  • Why you selected the issue
  • How the issue affects social work
  • The reason you chose the specific representative
  • The approach you took with the representative (consider the representative’s voting history, political affiliation, and any other factors you considered)

 

 Sharon Turner RE: Discussion 

Joe is a 34-year-old white male who is caught between a rock and a hard place and is seeking assistance to improve his overall well-being.  Joe is a six-month recovering addict from marijuana who is also diagnosed with major depression (dual diagnosis) (Plummer, Markis & Brocksen, 2014). He is currently receiving services for both diagnoses with the Mentally Ill Chemical Abuser (MICA) partial hospitalization program (Plummer, Markis & Brocksen).  Joe has applied for General Assistance (GA) to help him with his recovery and his daily living. GA offers benefits for cash, Medicaid, and housing for homeless single adults (Plummer, Markis & Brocksen). Unfortunately, due to his past, he does not qualify for assistance.

When Joe was in college, he was arrested and convicted of possession with the intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (CS) while on the university’s grounds (Plummer, Markis & Brocksen).  He served three years in prison, however, since his release he has had no further arrests (Plummer, Markis & Brocksen). Due to Joe’s conviction, he is having a hard time finding employment (Plummer, Markis & Brocksen). He has applied for jobs, however, if he puts his conviction history on the application, he does not receive a callback. When he omitted this information, the employer discovered that he lied and thus he was fired (Plummer, Markis & Brocksen). Being that Joe is having a difficult time finding employment, he is unable to secure housing. Thus his need to apply for GA.

According to GA policy, Joe is not eligible for services due to his conviction of CDS.  The State’s regulations state that any person convicted of CDS is not eligible for housing assistance (Plummer, Markis & Brocksen).  The State in which Joe resides is trying to cut down on drug dealers residing in low-income housing areas (Plummer, Markis & Brocksen). It is suggested that Joe seek housing assistance at a homeless shelter outside of the county (Plummer, Markis & Brocksen).  If, however, Joe were to go to a different county for housing, his treatment would be affected. He would not have access to the treatment facility, his counselor with whom he has developed a strong rapport with and the sober support he developed in the community (his sponsor and self-help group) (Plummer, Markis & Brocksen).   

Joe is at a point in his life where he is ready and willing to better himself, he wants to work on his recovery and mental health issues. He is actively engaged and taking the steps needed to better himself, however, due to the policies in place and his conviction history, he is hitting roadblocks that can be very discouraging. He needs income in order to pay rent for housing, however, he is unable to obtain employment due to his conviction history.  That same history is why he does not qualify for GA homeless services. If he cannot find housing, this can, in turn, affect his ability to remain clean and sober.

One can understand and appreciate the need to not provide housing to a drug dealer in low-income housing areas, however, some people who have been incarcerated for CDS have learned their lesson and wish to improve their lives. A possible suggestion to modify this policy would be that a person how has bee convicted of CDS and is seeking GA assistance should complete a substance abuse evaluation to confirm they are not acti8vely using.  If treatment is recommended, they need to comply. Furthermore, if a person has been convicted of CDS and seeking GA assistance, they must attend a re-entry program, a program that can help people who have been incarcerated re-enter society. These programs can help with going to school to learn a trade, applying for college or something as simple as learning how to use public transportation (Ferner, 2015). If these changes were made, they would allow Joe to receive the services to pay for rent as also receive services to become a productive part of his community.

Reference:

Ferner, M. (28, July 2015). These Programs are Helping Prisoners Live Again on The Outside. Huffpost. Retrieved from  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/if-we-want-fewer-prisoners-we-need-more-compassion-when-they-re-enter-society_us_55ad61a5e4b0caf721b39cd1

Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. M. (Eds.). (2014). Social work case studies:

Foundation year. Baltimore: MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. [Vital Source e-reader].

“Working with Clients with Dual Diagnosis: The Case of Joe”

Kimberly Sotter 

Joe is a male suffering from mental disorder and substance abuse addiction.  Joe is having a hard time finding assistance with services due to his conviction of distributing illegal substances.  Joe served his time and has been sober for sometime.  He continues to attend a dual diagnosis treatment to address both his mental health and substance abuse.  Joe is seeking assistance with health insurance, housing and cash assistance due to his inability to work.  Joe has been denied benefits due to his conviction, per state policy. (Plummer, S-B,. Makris, S., & Brocksen, S.M. 2014).

As the social worker of Joe, the first step that I would take is to have Joe apply for disability.  Joe should be able to retrieve documentation from the mental health professionals he works with stating his inability to work.  This is a federal service and he should be approved with proper documentation, although it will take some time.  This will relieve Joe’s stress of lack of income. 

The next step that I would take is to complete financial assistance documentation with the treatment facility Joe attends.  It sounds like Joe attends treatment at a hospital.  All hospitals have financial assistance programs and can not turn clients away due to their inability to pay.  I would encourage Joe to continue with his sponsor, as this will serve him in his long term sobriety. 

The next step I would take would be to refer Joe to a case manager at the homeless shelter.  Our homeless shelter here provides a path of independence for the people it serves.  They receive federal grants and private donations to assist with the payment of rent for the people they serve.  They also connect the homeless to jobs or a case manager that will help them achieve employment, assuming that Joe can eventually gain enough stability to work.  The disability payment will allow him stability once the grants run out from the homeless shelter.

The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers calls upon social workers to “…facilitate informed participation by the public in shaping policies and institutions.” (NASW, 1999). Additionally, Section 6.04 (a) of the Code, states that, “social workers should engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and promote social justice” (Beerama, D. 2012).

As an advocate for Joe and other clients in his position I would advocate for change in the policy that doesn’t allow them access to these services.  It makes absolutely no sense to me that in this country we incarcerate people for their crimes, with the intent of rehabilitation.  Then we release them and deny them any services that would help them continue on a better path. 

In my opinion Joe needs access to these services so he can continue to receive the assistance he needs.  In my experience as a social worker many clients have stated that they use marijuana as a way to cope with anxiety and depression.  This could be the case for Joe as well.  If he is denied assistance which would cause him to lose his supporters, he could relapse and return to his old lifestyle.  If the goal is to make keep Joe a productive member of society, he will need these services.  

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