From the Pen of the President: June 2022
NASW-Illinois Chapter President Kenna Dunlap Johnson, MBA, MSW, LCSW
While many children begin their summer breaks, I can’t help but think about how fast time flies. May was a wonderful month to raise awareness of mental health challenges, although we know it is always an important time for this. While we have had much to celebrate during the month of May, we have also experienced significant tragedy and loss.
As you know, on May 14, 2022, there was a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY. I am mourning this great loss and am left continuing to process this racially charged tragedy. Thanks to our national NASW President Mildred “Mit” Joyner for her wise words in her article for NASW, “NASW condemns deadly racist shooting in Buffalo, NY.” Her words remind me that we continue to watch racist violence occur, and I am also reminded that it is up to each and every one of us to do something about it. We must use our voices to speak up within our communities, with policy makers, and at various levels to challenge and end the violence.
On May 24, 2022, just 10 days after the Buffalo, NY, mass shooting, a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, killing children and teachers. We know all too well the sadness and grief that we have seen come from the rising number of school shootings that have happened over the years. Thanks to the NASW-TX Chapter for their call to explore avenues that will help to strengthen school safety and move toward prevention of these horrific tragedies: “NASW Texas shocked, saddened by shooting at elementary school in Uvalde.”
My thoughts have been weighing heavily on those that have been directly impacted by these tragedies. But the truth is, all of us have been affected by this one way or another. I think of the teachers and school staff who are breathing a sigh of relief as they finish their last day of school before summer break. Or the parents who struggled to drop their children off at school on those final days. I think of the community members hesitant to go into a grocery store for fear of the hatred and dangers that may be there. Or the students who wondered in disbelief as to how this could happen in their school, which may often be viewed as a safe haven by many. It is sad that we must live like this. We are all responsible for the change that must take place to bring peace to our communities. I read somewhere that even though individual actions may be small, their cumulative impact is not. Because it’s when things are not going right that we need to be learning and taking steps toward change. Now is a good time to restart the conversations that we need to have to make this occur. Please join your fellow social workers in these efforts.
As we move forward, our chapter continues to host a lot of relevant and insightful events. Hopefully, you had an opportunity to participate in the CEU event on the DSM-5 revisions. Our district chairs and NASW-IL staff continue to put together a wide variety of events that touch on many different topics. Many of these events, if missed, can later be found in our “Recorded” section through the Social Work Online CE Institute on our Events page: https://www.naswil.org/events. In addition, you can find information on our 2022 NASW-Illinois Chapter Hybrid Conference, taking place in Lisle, IL this fall. This is a great opportunity for learning and networking. I encourage you to check it out! This will be our first conference to get us back to in-person training while also making sure that we offer it as a hybrid option for those that may not be able to attend in-person. Either way, it is an opportunity to reconnect.
Congratulations to all those that were elected to our NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors. Thanks to all those who ran for a seat. I am so pleased to welcome new faces to the board and work with our incoming NASW-Illinois Chapter President-Elect Latesha Newson, MSW, LCSW. New and continuing board members can be found at the 2022 NASW-Illinois Chapter Election Results page on our website. Thank you to all outgoing board members. I appreciate your service and value the time that we have had together on the board. I am looking forward to our nearing June board meeting where I will get to say hello to everyone.
With that, I’ll leave you with a very well-known quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Thanks, again, for reading,
Kenna Dunlap Johnson, MBA, MSW, LCSW (MBA, University of St. Francis; MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) began working in the mental health field as a psychiatric inpatient mental health tech in 2004 prior to earning her MSW. After earning a degree in social work, Kenna continued on as case manager, therapist, and eventually, as director of behavioral health for a rural critical access hospital in east central Illinois. After that, Kenna went on to serve as director of admissions/intake for a 106-bed, free-standing psychiatric and addictions treatment hospital. She is currently vice president of outpatient services for a hospital management and consulting firm. In addition, Kenna teaches graduate and undergraduate social work courses for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Kenna served on the NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors as East Central District Chair for two terms, Vice-President for Budget and Finance for one term, and is now President (2021–2023). Kenna also serves her local school district as secretary for the board of education. Kenna is passionate about behavioral health treatment in rural settings as well as working to decrease stigma associated with mental illness. Kenna has also played a significant role in the NASW-Illinois Chapter Social Work Workforce Initiative as chair for the chapter's efforts to address social work workforce challenges and continue to grow and expand the valuable profession of social work.