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New York Social Worker Stabbed During Home Visit

National Association of Social Workers member Sherry Saturno, DCSW, LCSW, sent an email today to tell us about this article about a social worker who was stabbed by a client during a home visit.

Frances Mortensen, 47, a social worker at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Harrison, N.Y., is in critical but stable condition after undergoing surgery on Jan. 19. Police arrested her client, 26-year-old Jamile Wilson.

On Friday posted this follow-up article about steps the National Association of Social Workers is doing to improve safety for social workers. NASW lobbyist Elizabeth Hoffler is quoted in the article.

Q: There have been several news accounts over the last year about social workers assaulted and even murdered while on the job. What can social workers do to remain safe?

The National Association of Social Workers’ Center for Workforce Studies and the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University at Albany did a survey that found that four out of 10 social workers face personal safety issues on the job. To learn more about that study, click here.

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  1. How does a social worker identify their perpetrator without violating confidentiality?

  2. I just read the news article and now I understand that the client called 911 and the social worker didn’t necessarily have to violate confidentiality for police to figure out who stabbed her. But how can she identify him or verify the police suspicions without violating client-confidentiality?

  3. Yes, there have been several reports of SW being assaulted on the job in the past year. However, I would like to emphasize that these incidents are not the norm and are rare when we consider how many social workers are daily working directly with clients without incident.

    That being said, there are precautions that any person can take. Of course, co-workers and/or a supervisor should always know of a home visit. I would encourage everyone, social workers or not, to take a self defense class. Being aware of surroundings is always important- know where exits are at all times. I think taking these precautions are just common sense to know in any situation, work related or otherwise.

  4. This is sometimes an unforeseen act by a client. I hope the Social Worker is healing well, my thoughts go out to her; I will put semma down for her. We all sometimes forget how unpredictable we are as humans. For this same reason I don’t let clients know about my personal life as I am uncertain what any client is capable of, as well I always try to sit by the door and have my cell phone and vehicle keys on my person (meaning on me at all times in case of emergency). Perhaps in some cases there should always be two social workers working together on cases and doing home visits as a team as there are safety in numbers.

  5. If a client hurts themselves or others, then confidentiality is out the window.

  6. This was bound to happen and it will happen again, and again and no it is not an isolated incident. The main objective mental health system as well as health care in general has shifted .The concern for the client, the concern for the comunity, the concern for mental health professionals is not the main focus. Revenue is the primary concern! REVENUE IS THE PRIMARY CONCERN Social Workers, Programs such as ACT teams and Case managers are under intense pressure to make numbers, as the hospitals, health care corporations, and insurance companies suck tax payer money and drive the Medicare system into the ground. The mentally ill are suffering without adequate supports with out good treatment. They are growing in numbers and their problems are more complex than ever. While the Umbrella of administration is heavy and fat with premium salaries, front line social workers remain over worked and underpaid. For the past 2 decades mental health providers in NYS have been forced to do more with less. We need change we have to do more with more!! If the program that this SW worked for had more staff, if she was not alone this would not have happened. Lets us look at this as an isolated incident let us look at this as the catalyst for reform!!!

    My heart goes out to the social worker, my prayers are with her, to be placed in the front line, under pressure and alone was wrong. We can’t afford to sweep yet another incident under the carpet and go about our jobs in this field as if nothing is wrong. Our silence must end and the administrators that governs the mental health system should be held accountable for this incident


  8. I am so glad to see this on Social Work Speak. I feel like the story did not get a lot of coverage and as a NYC social worker who does similar work, the story shook me up a bit. I keep thinking of the social worker, Frances Mortensen, and praying for her full physical, mental, and emotional recovery! Stay safe out there everyone!

  9. The story dies down , and westchester county prepairs for more funding cuts to mental health.the departmnet of mental health should hang its head in shame for its silence .. How important are your jobs?? more important than your lives ? certanly more important than your freedom

    I hope Ms Morgenstern is doing much better and i pray for her speedy recovery

  10. Busnnuss as usual around the USA in terms of social workers. issues like these are alowed to die down and we are forced to do more with less .its a very sad situation that exists in the mental health system and the Office of mental health should be ashamed of themselves ..

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