The National Association of Social Workers, Illinois Chapter (NASW-IL) calls on the Illinois General Assembly to approve the four pillars in their entirety as currently proposed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.
The year 2020 brought a year of reckoning for racial justice issues. The spring began with a worldwide pandemic. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) not only sent the world into complete lockdown, but it also highlighted inexcusable health and economic disparities in communities of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). The summer was overwhelmed with civil unrest due to the disturbing deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the brutal shooting of Jacob Blake—many of which were caught on video. The eyes of the world were forever changed, and with this increasing awareness came a deep pursuit for racial and social justice.
Racial injustice has been a longstanding issue that dates past the creation of this nation. Systemic oppression, racial discrimination and division, and the misappropriation of power have been ingrained in the fabric of our country and continues to perpetuate in our society from generation to generation. It is the alarming—but not uncommon—events that took place this past summer involving police that has undoubtedly brought about a reckoning in our nation as it relates to the culture of policing and a coincidingly skewed criminal justice system, with the desperate need for reform.
The time for us to begin that reform is now—the opportunity is before you.
So much of what is proposed in the four pillars are issues the Illinois Black Caucus have been working on for years; the problems are not new, and no “floodgates” will be opened. We desperately need to address things like lead service lines contaminating our water sources, funding reforms for our safety net hospitals, reforming education to serve all children, transformative police reform, and yes, reforming a managed care system that has failed to live up to the promises on quality and access of care.
NASW-IL, like other Illinois advocate organizations from which you have heard the past couple of days, have preferred language and priorities we too would like to see help strengthen these initiatives. They include the following:
Expanded assistance to grow a social work workforce that reflects the diversity of our state and the clients they will serve
Ending the deadly practices of prone and chemical restraint and working to end abusive practices of seclusion rooms on children
An increase in reimbursement rates for community health centers and safety net mental health facilities
Programs to divert 911 calls that would be better served by mental health professionals
Ending no-knock warrants and drastically limiting quick knock warrants
Finally prioritizing mental health in our schools while ending the use of law enforcement in them, and
Fundamentally reforming the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to serve families in crisis and produce positive outcomes for youth-in-care.
However, none of our stated priorities or our language concerns should stand in your way toward moving current legislation now. As the bill sponsors have been saying, the pillars are the first step and not the finish line, and we look forward to continue working with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and the entire Illinois General Assembly to build and expand on them. Amend where possible, but we ask that you do not allow those who will never agree to fundamental reforms to distract and dissuade you from doing what’s right.
This past year brought intense distrust in both elected officials and those sworn to protect. Despite expected opposition to change, you have the opportunity to start addressing both. Consequently, you also have the opportunity to further erode distrust by kicking the can even further down the road. We call on you to use this opportunity to stand with your colleagues— to trust your colleagues—to begin the long process of righting institutional and generational wrongs.
Pass the pillars.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, with over 120,000 members. The NASW-Illinois Chapter is one of the association's largest chapters with over 5,000 members in Illinois alone. NASW strives to advance social work careers, grow social work businesses, and protect the profession.