Social work professionals who serve New York’s public school system will convene on Thursday, June 4, 2015 at the Columbia School of Social Work for the first-ever conference to address the issue of how to keep school children safe in the face of drastic cuts to the state’s mental health services.

Conference organizers have conceived the gathering as both call to action and an opportunity to start a new conversation about how best to deal with the effects of a reduction in mental health community services at a time when society is also calling for more attention to be paid to students’ mental health needs because of the uptick of violent incidents in schools, many involving guns.

“One only needs to read a headline or watch the news to understand the issue,” said Hai-Ping Yeh, President of the New York State School Social Work Association. “What many don’t understand is that social services are being cut, the opposite of what is needed to curb the tides of violence and unrest in our schools. This conference is about finding solutions and about building unity among school social workers. We are dedicated to a common cause: A Just and Fair Increase in Student Support Services and Mental Health Programs for All Students.”

Myrna Mandlawitz, who directs Government Relations at the School Social Work Association of America, agreed that the timing for the conference is critical.

“The national discussion on school violence, bullying, and gun control have made it clear that school social workers need to speak out against the demise of mental health and school social work services in our communities, funding for which has hit an all-time low,” she said.

The conference, which takes place from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM at Columbia’s Social Work Building, 1255 Amsterdam Avenue, will cover topics ranging from the challenges of working with children and adolescents on mental health issues to mental health services available to students in New York City, the nation’s largest school system. Ursulina Ramirez, who serves as chief of staff to New York City’s School Chancellor Carmen Fariña, will deliver special remarks.

NOTE: The event is currently sold out, but two discussion panels, which takes place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. (the first features remarks by Ursulina Ramirez), will be livestreamed. Go to Livestream page.

To learn more about the event, or to set up interviews with the conference organizers, please contact swconference@columbia.edu. You can also download the conference agenda (PDF: 2 pages).

About Columbia School of Social Work

Columbia School of Social Work has been a leader in social work education and research since 1898. It joins rigorous academic theory with real-world practice to enhance the welfare of citizens and communities in New York City, the nation and around the world. To learn more, visit www.socialwork.columbia.edu.

About the Social Work Association of America (SSWAA)

The School Social Work Association of America empowers school social workers and promotes the profession of school social work to enhance the social and emotional growth and academic outcomes of all students. For more information, visit www.sswaa.org.

About the New York State School Social Workers’ Association (NYSSSWA)

The New York State School Social Workers Association (NYSSSWA) is the only NYS professional association dedicated solely to the visibility and viability of School Social Workers and the students and families that we serve. School Social Workers work within the school setting, to enhance the social/emotional well being of all students in order to strengthen academic and personal success. For more information, visit www.nyssswa.org.

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