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LB998 would add social workers in each of our state’s Educational Service Units (ESUs), providing all of Nebraska’s students a wide array of services. This bill costs the taxpayer nothing, as it is entirely funded for three years by private donations.

Furthermore, as amended with AM2044 and AM2572 and advanced in the process, the option of automatically being funded by the taxpayer is removed, because the bill sunsets on July 1, 2022, unless the ESU seeks other sources of funding. Alan Jacobsen's Local View ("LB 998 doesn’t address key problems," April 7) highlights common misconceptions about social workers.

In his op-ed, Mr. Jacobsen cites Sen. Mike Groene’s comment about trained mental health workers being employed by the state of Nebraska, which seems to be a good idea. The services that social workers placed at the ESUs could provide would be available to all students in the geographic area, not just the students who receive services under the state programs.

This proposal is one answer to addressing the current issues related to the behavioral and mental health concerns of our children and youth. Social workers are trained in assessing student and family needs and making the appropriate referrals for the services that are available. The creation of these social work positions will also help to establish the areas of the state that are lacking in services.

Mr. Jacobsen refers to the lack of coordinated efforts to prevent tragic incidents such as occurred in Parkland, Florida, in February. From the in-depth reporting that has become public since the incident, it appears that many levels of social service agencies, law enforcement and the schools were aware of the difficulties and concerning behaviors that the perpetrator of this incident was experiencing.

It has shown us the need for communication between agencies including the schools and law enforcement. For instance, Nebraska has teams do that on a regular basis in cases of child abuse and neglect. These local teams have representatives from many types of agencies, including the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, social workers, law enforcement and education, who discuss cases and seek to find solutions.

Lincoln and Omaha public schools have increased the number of school social workers significantly over the past 10 years and continue to add social workers. Our communities look different from what they did 20 years ago. School social workers work with the student, family and community. School social work is not a new area of social work that has come into being in response to the issues that are taking place in our nation’s schools and neighborhoods.

Social workers working in our schools have always had one goal — to work with students and their families to help students become the best they can be in the classroom so they are ready and available for learning. At the same time, a social worker’s involvement assists in assessing red flags that might exist.

In Nebraska, a school social worker who has a Master of Social Worker degree may apply to become a licensed mental health practitioner. Many school social workers are licensed and are specifically trained to provide significant value to school districts.

LB998 is good for Nebraska’s students, families and our state.

Terry Werner is a social worker and executive director of the Nebraska chaper of the National Association of Social Workers. He lives in Lincoln.


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