At the same time that the recession-weakened nation experiences headlined slashes in public services, Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) students are being trained to identify and implement low-cost or no-cost ways to help the needy, and to become a force that shows that society can improve despite the Great Recession.
New York City Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky addressed this topic when he spoke to students in Professor Allan Luks’ Advocacy and Public Policy class on Feb. 1.
“It’s always hard to get social changes approved,” Yassky said, “but I don’t think it’s any harder now to get change, as long as it doesn’t cost a lot of money. And you, as social workers, through your daily experiences, can identify such solutions and fight to get them adopted.”
Each one of the second-year students in Luks’ course must identify and advocate for a new, small public policy that can improve society at little cost. The students have had no problem finding these issues and their public policy solutions. Some examples include:
• stopping users of suboxone, a methadone-like drug, from selling their supply to get others high;
• requiring people who are HIV-positive to inform those they are sexually active with;
• having public TV and radio regularly post social indexes on how well or poorly society is solving its social ills and inviting public involvement where changes are most needed;
• offering affordable transportation for low-income cancer patients, who now may be late to appointments or even miss them;
• regular mental health seminars in high schools so students can identify warning signs in themselves and others and prevent violent behaviors;
• a requirement that public housing conditions that cause asthma be fixed within a month rather than a year; and
• allowing pregnant women to avoid going through metal detectors at schools.
“Social workers are required by their profession to identify solutions to public problems and advocate for their implementation,” said Luks, who also directs Fordham’s Center for Nonprofit Leaders. “For the needy, who are most affected by the Great Recession, these small ideas of social workers become a balance that says optimism for the future is still possible.”