Social Work Month 2021

March marks National Social Work Month. The social work movement began in the late 1800’s, with the first class offered at Columbia University in 1898. The social work profession stems from raising awareness and addressing social injustices impacting community members. Their work began with individuals experiencing abuse and neglect and evolved to working with individuals challenged with mental health illness, substance abuse concerns, and financial constraints. Social workers advocate for the needs of vulnerable populations and remain deeply invested in individual and community needs today.

The nation needs more social workers as it continues to deal with entrenched problems that have stressed our society,
including systemic racism and the Coronavirus pandemic. The United States is also experiencing
one of its worst economic downturns since the Great Depression. 1

The SOHO Care Management team has a Social Work Program with three social workers providing services to the thousands of lives for which we are accountable. They outreach numerous attributed lives daily who are experiencing gaps in behavioral health and social influencers of health that have risen with the coronavirus pandemic. Their work begins with building trust and rapport with individuals diagnosed with a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, toward empowering them to manage their signs and symptoms, to maintain behavioral health appointments, and to offer additional resources in the community as needed. Another area of focus includes social influencers of health involving financial supports or resources toward getting medications, medical transportation, caregiver support, health insurance, food assistance, and other social needs impacting an individual’s ability to optimally meet their health and wellness goals.

With social injustices and mental illness stigmatized in our society, social workers have become unseen silent warriors working on the front lines.  Over the last year, the societal effect of the coronavirus pandemic caused an increase in mental health challenges. Social isolation from quarantining has led to limited socialization and poor coping, resulting in increased rates in alcohol consumption or substance use as well as worsening chronic health conditions. Combined with the economic recession, social workers have been needed more than ever to guide and support individuals in the community and in hospitals.

During the pandemic, our Care Management team has been performing COVID19 screenings which have highlighted the rising needs of our patient population. Our social work team has helped meet our patients’ rising rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, financial constraints, and social isolation as experienced nationwide. They are working with patients who are homeless or who require subsidized housing at a time when options are few. They are also working with community organizations to advocate for patients needing behavioral health services or personal caregiver assistance for support with activities of daily living, both of which are in high demand and more difficult to acquire. SOHO social workers are striving to meet system challenges head on by collaborating with our network of providers to streamline patients’ access to care across the care continuum.

Please join our Care Management team leads for National Social Work month in recognizing Pearlene Martell, LCSWVirginia Ruiz, MSW, and Rachel Santoro, LMSW for their knowledge, patience, and skills along with their dedication that has positively impacted our patients.

1. Social Workers Are Essential. National Association of Social Workers website. March 2021.



Nina Arnold, MPH, RN, CCHWC, CBN is Manager, Care Management at SOHO HEALTH.