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Michigan Social Workers Fear For Lives

Line at Michigan unemployment office. Photo courtesy of Michigan Live LLC.

Line at Michigan unemployment office. Photo courtesy of Michigan Live LLC.

A recent Associated Press article says Michigan social workers fear they will be assaulted by people angered because they have to wait in long lines for assistance. The threat may be real but the article buried the real issue. Due to the bad economy Michigan social workers are being overwhelmed by thousands of new cases and the state does not have the budget to hire more help! Read the article and tell Social Workers Speak! what you think.

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  1. Without question, the economic crisis in Michigan has been worsening at a fairly rapid rate and yes social workers in Michigan are experiencing higher caseloads. Given there are certain circumstances social workers at the DHS offices have no control over (i.e. their caseload, security, state budget, etc.), properly trained social workers possess the skills to solve some of the immediate problems being seen on a daily basis. Social workers also need to employ self-preservation skills. Remain self-aware and aware of the body language people display to ensure your safety.

    As a social worker, I’ve been trained in deescalation, self-care techniques, and non-violent intervention. So, I’m not fearful of my clients and treat them with respect. The fact of the matter is as a Michigan resident, I’m affected by the economic crisis in Michigan too. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed co-workers who don’t show that same respect and usually these are the individuals who end up in verbal altercations with clients.

    Social workers need to demand more respect as a profession in Michigan and let’s advocate for ourselves locally as well. Every time a state budget is developed, human services and mental heakth receives a deeper cut! For example, Governor Granholm cut the mental health budget again just a few days ago. Social workers need to be calling their local and state representatives frequently and making their case heard!! Until the money flows back into the budget, all any social worker can do is employ the skills they’ve developed!

  2. The Michigan story is a larger version of the same scenario in Montana, at least at the Helena Mountana office–too many clients, not enough workers, and no security to protect the staff when someone is enraged by long waits and tedious paperwork and documentation. The administration copes with budget deficits by “vacancy saving” which means fewer staff when the number of clients needing food stamps, medicaid, and aid to families skyrockets due to the poor economy and unemployment stats.

    Judith Williams, MSW, retired public service employee

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