Trauma 4.0: 30-Day Landscape of the Post-Roe v. Wade Era

Providers, practitioners, patients, and their supports have long dealt with public scrutiny over the decision to terminate an unintended, unviable, if not potentially life-threatening pregnancy. Yet, amid the post-Roe v. Wade era, it has become tougher to receive and render necessary care; a new dimension of trauma is being unleashed for all involved.

Roe v. Wade was overturned one month ago. The flagrant assault on women’s health and their reproductive rights is now at full throttle. My blog post, Trauma Amid Roe v. Wade Despair, addressed the historical, manifesting, and enduring trauma experienced across society from this new norm. Providers, practitioners, patients, and their supports have long dealt with public scrutiny over the decision to terminate an unintended, unviable, if not potentially life-threatening pregnancy. Yet, this intimate choice was a guaranteed right under the law for almost 50 years, that is until June 24th, 2022. 

I introduced the hashtag, #Therewillbetrauma, which has resonated loudly across the globe. It has joined other entries on social media related to this topic, including:

#abortionishealthcare

#freedomofchoice

#mybodymychoice 

#reclaimRoe

#reproductiverights

#righttochoose 

#Roe43

There has been an outpouring of mobilization this last month to counter the Dobbs v. Jackson decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. Struggles to ensure necessary care for women in need have been fierce with ongoing efforts to craft new abortion and reproductive rights legislation. More vulnerable populations, such as women of color, transgender men, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming persons. and those living in poverty were disproportionally impacted prior to Dobbs v. Jackson; their access to appropriate healthcare often limited. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis identifies these populations are more likely to obtain abortions, yet have limited access to health care, and face systemic inequities that make out of state travel for abortions more difficult compared to White counterparts.

Recent events have occurred amid these struggles that reinforce the impact of trauma’s wrath. Each packs a fierce intensity to challenge ethical tenets across health and behavioral health care. Patient autonomy is compromised, as is beneficence, fidelity, justice, and non-maleficence. What happens when “do no harm” is the antithesis of reality for those reconciling their intimate right to choose, and the inability to do so?


Ethics Matter

#Ethicsmatter is another of my popular hashtags. The following news stories demonstrate how little ethics matter to far too many. Each event activates a trauma response that sends my cortisol levels into overdrive. I am a seasoned clinical professional, but also a woman working hard to maintain balance amid a range of emotions, from anger and frustration, to sheer rage:

  1. Within weeks of Roe v. Wade being overturned, a horrific story surfaced. A 10 year old in Ohio, had been sexually assaulted and raped by a 27 year old man, resulting in a pregnancy. At 6 weeks and 3 days of gestation, the child was denied an abortion in her home state due to the Dobbs v. Jackson decision; she was forced to travel across state lines to receive appropriate health care. The physical and psychological trauma from rape is unthinkable. The thought of a rape victim being forced to carry a resulting pregnancy to full-term against her choice is reprehensible; for a 10 year old child, it is unconscionable. This is trauma.
  2. The 10 year old discussed above was referred by her physician to an OB/GYN in Indiana to terminate her pregnancy. The treating physician, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, has subsequently been harassed and threatened by the public, as well as Indiana’s attorney general; her medical license is now under scrutiny. Reports validate Dr. Bernard complied with state and local laws, such as existing HIPAA privacy rights laws for treating a minor, reporting the case to child protective services, and other regulations. Despite acting with beneficence, fidelity, non-maleficence, and egal due diligence, Dr. Bernard faces “reputational harm and emotional distress”. This is trauma.
  3. Marlena Still and her husband, Abie DeSilva live in Texas and were excited about their pregnancy; the couple have a toddler and had tried conceive a second child for some time. During a routine office visit at 9 weeks, doctors informed the couple that there was no heartbeat, and thus, no viable pregnancy; a fetal demise was their new norm. The emotional intensity of their baby dying in utero was unthinkable and traumatic enough. Yet, this tragic situation took an even, more tragic turn. The events that followed were antithetical to “do not harm”:
  4. Marlena was forced to carry a dead fetus for 2 weeks: This is trauma.
  5. Marlena requested a Dilation and Curettage, also known as a D and C and the traditional care following a miscarriage. Her physician refused to do the procedure, citing the new Texas anti-abortion law as the reason. She noted the patient must have a transvaginal ultrasound before further consideration of the procedure. This is trauma.
  6. Marlena endured this invasive diagnostic procedure, plus, then was forced to hear the words no parent experience, and more than once: “your baby is dead”: This is trauma.
  7. After the second ultrasound, Marlena’s OB/GYN still refused to provide clinically indicated care putting her at grave clinical and emotional risk. The patient endured, yet another, ultrasound: This is trauma.
  8. The literature notes profound risks associated with fetal demise and from carrying a dead fetus for an extended period of time: hemorrhage, infection, infertility, organ failure, mortality. The psychological impact of being forced to experience this reality is unacceptable: This is trauma.
  9. Marlena found another physician to do the D and C procedure. This denial of clinically appropriate miscarriage care and treatment is unethical and immoral. This is trauma.
  10. The couple are considering leaving their home state of Texas, their family and support system. They have also opted to not try and conceive another child. Marlena is fearful of being unable to access appropriate care should she have another fetal demise. She is not prepared to put her life in jeopardy and risk leaving her daughter without a mother and husband without a life partner. This is trauma.
  11. The reality for Elizabeth and James Weller of Texas is gut wrenching and almost too much for, even, this author to fathom. At 18 weeks pregnant, her water broke. Given the length of this blog post, those interested can review the heartbreaking events in an article on NPR. They tell a horrific story no person should have to endure: traditional obstetric care amid a medical emergency obstructed due to state law, a patient’s life at risk as she is forced to endure medical and emotional trauma while awaiting “fetal death”, a physician caught in a legal quagmire and unable to practice medicine in a way that prioritizes, “Do not harm”. This is the grim reality which has been created; THIS IS TRAUMA.

The Current State of Trigger Laws

 The emergence of trigger laws banning abortion has been swift. An interactive map of current laws across the nation appears on Governing.com. As of this writing, abortion is illegal in 10 states, though 13 others limit access. Idaho, Tennessee, and Texas will join the state bans in place as this article is published, on July 24th, 2022; Arizona and Georgia will follow in the coming months with a growing number of states curbing women’s reproductive rights. Providers may refuse to participate in an abortion procedures in 45 states. Those practitioners supporting reproductive rights are being threatened at every turn. They are becoming more reluctant to provide necessary care and treatment to women experiencing fetal demise, or where the termination of a pregnancy is clinical indicated; fear of legal reprimand and sanction may supersede patient care. Waiting periods for abortions are advancing, as are efforts restricting all types of abortions: those received across state lines, telehealth procedures, and mail access to medications that induce miscarriages. The reproductive rights scene for women, their families, and all providers who care for them, is becoming scarier by the minute. This is trauma.

Advocacy Matters

As the first 30 days of our post-Roe v. Wade era draws to a close, advocacy continues to be the antidote. The resource listing from my initial blog post on this topic is posted below for ease of access. Engage in action as you can and vote:

It is unclear what the next 30 days will bring, though there is one certainty. Trauma is now its own epidemic, and will only intensify. Amid the battle to fight for reproductive and women’s health rights, there is, and will continue to be, trauma. How much will be determined by ongoing advocacy toward action.

Income Insecurity Impacts Access to, Affordability of, and Outcomes for Men’s Wholistic Health

Men’s access to, use and affordability of physical and behavioral health care is at issue. They have the highest rates of avoidable deaths worldwide and are the most likely to skip care due to costs.

This blog has focused on varied population health and access to care challenges for racial and ethnic minorities, among other vulnerable and marginalized communities. Recent blogs addressed the dismal state of Maternal mortality and mental health, escalating women’s reproductive health crisis, and disappearing birthing centers across rural regions. The impact of systemic racism and other realities, such as trauma, on quality of care has also been of note. Considerable research identifies their influence on exacerbation and emergence of chronic physical and mental illness; every age group, gender, and individual across the cultural landscape is at risk. 

The 2020 International Health Policy Survey from the Commonwealth Fund and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlights a plight worthy of notice: health care habits of American Men faced with financial insecurity. The report compares the access to, use, and affordability of care for males in the U.S. compared to 11 high-income countries. 

Startling Outcomes

The report summary focused on overall demographics by gender versus among racial and ethnic groups. The wholistic health triad of physical, behavioral, and psychosocial health gets primary attention yet again with troubling outcomes:

  • At least, 16 M men in the US lack health insurance:
    • Affordability of health plans remains the primary reason 
  • 45% of men have problems paying medical bills:
    • 67% of these men are frequently stressed about employment and/or financial security

Men in the U.S with income insecurity:

  • Are least likely to have a regular physician
    • They have the highest rates of Emergency Department use, especially for conditions that could have been treated in the Doctor’s office (e.g., asthma, diabetes, hypertension) 
  • Skip necessary care due to costs
  • Incur medical bills at the highest rates
  • Are least likely to access preventative care
  • Have the highest rates of avoidable deaths: 337/100,000
  • Are more likely to have integrated health issues, especially chronic conditions
    • Almost 30% have two or more chronic illnesses
    • Have significantly higher rates of smoking and alcohol use, and increased likelihood of having multiple chronic conditions:
      • 4X greater likelihood of being in fair or poor health
  • Have among the highest rates of mental health care needs: 35% of men

The Bottom Line and Mandate

At this point in time, the data affirms that rates of avoidable deaths, chronic conditions, and mental health needs for U.S. men remain the highest in the world; wholistic health equity quality is at a crossroads. Decreased access to routine preventative primary physical and behavioral health care is compromised by financial insecurity, as readily as traditional behavioral or cultural norms; this includes male resistance to appear vulnerable, weak, or infirmed. The cycle of reactive, emergent, and costly care has an identifiable cause that can be mitigated through a proactive means, encompassing:

  • Expanded access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage. 
  • Targeted person-centric and concordant care, including but not limited to:
    • increased access to racially, culturally, and ethnically-diverse providers and practitioners, as well as those trained in and sensitive to LGBTQIA wholistic health
    • Increased emphasis on integrated care frameworks that leverage patient engagement through comprehensive visits, concordant treatment approaches, and clinical expertise
      • Funding and reimbursement are also enhanced
    • Implicit bias training to debunk stigma and systemic racism, and also builds patient-provider trust
  • Collective efforts of providers, health plans, systems and organizations, and communities to promote preventive care and healthy behaviors, through targeted population-based engagement, psycho-education, and outreach

For my fellow wholistic health equity quality warriors, we’ve got miles to go before we sleep. Feel free to add further strategic recommendations and resources below.  

Trauma Amid Roe v. Wade Despair 

Amid my concern of the massive societal impact from overturning Roe v. Wade, lies the intersection of this decision’s havoc with every iteration of trauma.

Roe v. Wade has been overturned, and like many, I’m devastated. There will be mass impact of this decision across systems and sectors for generations to come. As I pondered a unique way to approach this blog post, one chronic theme came to mind. Amid my concern for all populations, lies the intersection of this decision’s havoc with every iteration of trauma.

Here are the facts: There is Pervasive Trauma

  • Vulnerable and marginalized populations live with rampant access to care obstacles; historical, experiential, and medical trauma are embedded within in the DNA of each person. 
  • The Turnaway Study released last Spring revealed stark facts of trauma’s wrath for women denied an abortion.
    • They are 4X as likely to end up living in poverty, stay with abusive partners, suffer from poor physical and mental health, plus have decreased aspirations. 
  • Collective Occupational Trauma for practitioners will further escalate as they reconcile:

There Will be More Trauma to Come

We can also expect:

  • Thousands of unplanned births and the potential for increased maternal morbidity and mortalityThere will be trauma.
  • Increased mental health challenges for persons dealing with unwanted pregnancies; There will be trauma.
  • High rates of suicidal ideation, gestures, and action for victims of rape, sexual assault, and interpersonal violence who are forced to carry a pregnancy to full-term; There will be trauma.
  • A ripple effect for college-aged students facing an unwanted pregnancy, and forced to raise children on college campuses, delay, or give up hopes of earning a degree; There will be trauma.
  • Persons with chronic conditions, medical, psychiatric, and intellectual disabilities often face often life-threatening conditions when forced to maintain a pregnancy. “Abortion restrictions do not only endanger people who don’t wish to be pregnant. Many people who want biological children have conditions that put them at higher risk of adverse outcomes and miscarriages…this poses clear psychological risks, as well as physical ones”; There will be trauma
  • A rise in adverse childhood experiences scores for children born of unintended pregnancies, and for persons exposed to adverse life experiencesThere will be trauma.
  • Threats to other rights and freedoms of ALL vulnerable and marginalized populations across the diversity, equity and cultural inclusion landscape; There will be trauma.

Moving Forward

Many associations and entities have already published position statements opposing the overturning of Roe V. Wade. This list of resources will fuel your advocacy energies:

ACLU

Center for Reproductive Rights

Center for Trauma-informed Policy and Practice

Guttmacher Institute

Human Rights Campaign

International Partners for Reproductive Justice (Ipas)

Keep Our Clinics

NARAL Pro-Choice America

National Abortion Federation

National Black Women’s Reproductive Agenda

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice

National Network of Abortion Funds

PACEs Connection

Planned Parenthood

Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN)

Women Have Options

There are other countless other resources, and I invite all to add resources to this list. In the meantime, seek support by reaching out to each other: family, friends, colleagues, and counseling. Stay fierce, advocate, and ensure appropriate care for those in need. There will be ongoing emotions to reconcile as society contends with the new reality. We must be ready to ensure necessary health and mental health intervention, and for every person. After all, There will be trauma.

Professional Identity and Branding: Key Elements for a Successful Entrepreneurial Equation

Engaging in marketing or self-promotion can be uncomfortable for the workforce, especially for my colleagues in the health and behavioral health realm. Content on leveraging professional identity has not traditionally been taught in academic programs; the priority is on learning competencies that ensure quality caring for others versus endorsing self-interests. Yet, the needle is shifting, and for many reasons.

“I want to be you”; I’ve been so fortunate to hear this language in recent years. Yet, the adage is accurate: with great power comes great responsibility. It is humbling to know my hard work is appreciated. However, it is overwhelming to know others view me as the standard by which to measure their own professional success. I’ve written a variety of content on this topic, from recent book chapters to blog posts. To achieve a successful entrepreneurial equation, you must be able to name your professional identity (PI) and leverage your professional brand (PB).

Professional Identity (PI)

Your PI is comprised of 3 areas. First is professional knowledge-core: your education and those coveted degrees. There is value is that didactic theory and learning from school. Though it is impossible to remember it all, so what matters most? I’ve had students approach me years after sitting in my classroom to share various “Ellen-isms” that popped in their heads when they least expected, such as, how “critical thinking enhances their objectivity” for clinical and operations decision-making. Some recall that “ethics are everywhere”, while others speak to the importance of discovering their “professional lane”, and venturing on a unique path. How does the knowledge gained from continuing education and trainings inform your evolving self? How do you consider the seminal documents of codes of ethics and standards of practice in your professional actions, work products, and professional interactions? Stop and consider, how does your brain trust influence your career trajectory?

Second are personal values and beliefs. How do these areas align with the mission and vision of your company, or its assorted functions? How might they affect what contracts you consider? Perhaps, they influence your pricing or billing practices, such as whether to accept insurance, or how to address co-payments, or late payments. For example, do you charge interest if any payment is late, whether the service rendered is for a patient visit or organizational consulting charge? If you do, at what point: 30, 45, or 60 days? Do you raise the interest if the timeframe goes beyond a particular point? At what point do you involve a collections agency? How much time do you devote to “free” consultations? How might your values influence what communities and populations you serve? Each of these questions are vital decision-points and beckon for your individual contemplation; I’ve made my decisions, what will yours be?

Finally comes that professional persona or, how do you present that professional identity to the world? It might be the style of your dress, presentation personality, or in your social media presence. How do you promote your efforts to the world, and what is your comfort in doing so? For example, I post a great deal on social media to market my work, whether articles, book chapters, my own books, as well as presentations and trainings; this blog gets a fair amount of attention. Engaging in marketing or self-promotion can be uncomfortable for the workforce, especially for my colleagues in the health and behavioral health realm. Content on leveraging professional identity is not traditionally taught in academic programs; the priority is on those competencies that ensure quality caring for others versus endorsing self-interests. Yet, the needle is shifting, and for many reasons. Increased numbers of professionals are going entrepreneurial and consulting routes. To be successful, you must be comfortable marketing your expertise; wear that professional persona with pride!

Professional Brand (PB)

Your PB is a brief statement that conveys your professional intent, focus, and value to stakeholders of your services. This includes patients, clients, members and consumers, to colleagues, referral sources, and the public. A solid PI drives a winning PB!

Your PB gets incorporated into every business product, from cover letters and work products, to online profiles. It should be printed on business cards and other marketing literature. The language is included in any quick pitch you do at events, or interviews where you share entrepreneurial expertise. The language is your clear and convincing response to those classic interview questions, such as, “Tell me about yourself”, or “Why should I hire you?”. 

Several elements encompass PB. Each serves a dual purpose: how do you want stakeholders and customers to experience you and, how do you want to present to them:

  • Tag line: a brief statement that cuts to the core of your efforts; it’s clear, memorable, and makes you shine above the rest! I, empower interprofessional knowledge; what about you?
  • Logo: a graphic image that represents your professional persona. If you have a creative core, play with this yourself. However, several companies rock this effort at reasonable rates, such as FIVERR to VistaLogo, and Design Hill. All provide bundled options for website development, logos for use across social media and other business platforms (e.g., digital devices, cards and stationary, presentation banners, and other products).
  • Theme: As an entrepreneur you bring a unique business lens geared to a target audience of stakeholders across certain sectors or practice settings. Consider this on the front end of your efforts, otherwise it becomes harder to market yourself and your company. It is common to use your company mission or vision statements for this effort.  
  • Elevator speech: You have 30-60 seconds to give a quick overview of your expertise, credentials, and goals. This brief article from Balance Careers provides sound guidance. 

PI and PB set the tone for your successful entrepreneurial equation. Are you up to the challenge?

I invite readers to share their recommendations on driving PI and PB.

Advocacy Amid Anguish for the Frontline Workforce

The Surgeon General’s advisory is landmark action whose priority is only emphasized by the latest horrific mass shootings, now at 213 and counting. We are way beyond burnout with advocacy amid the anguish mandated, and through an interprofessional effort.

My initial intent was to dedicate this week’s blog post to the Surgeon General’s Advisory. The document highlights the industry mandate for stakeholders to be accountable for action that mitigates workforce burnout: 

  • healthcare organizations 
  • insurers 
  • health technology companies 
  • policymakers
  • academic institutions 
  • researchers
  • communities

However, we are way beyond burnout! The battle cry by industry advocates is fierce. Workforce retention, turnover, and patient quality are beyond their tipping points; “more must be done or there will be nobody left to render care”. The Surgeon General’s advisory is landmark action whose priority is only emphasized by the latest horrific mass shootings, now at 213 and counting for 2022 alone.

Intensifying Collective Occupational Trauma

Society witnessed the worst of humanity: the death of 19 innocent children and two teachers in Uvalde, TX, followed so closely to the intentional murder of 13 persons in Buffalo, NY. Both events serve as added evidence of the severe collective occupational trauma inflicted on every practitioner and provider of care. My colleagues and I face these issues as human beings, as well as professionals, which is a felt in the most intimate and unique ways. 

Front-line practitioners and first-responders face unparalleled pressures in caring for victims or being forced to announce their deaths. Conveying that intimate information to loved ones carries an overbearing responsibility. Underneath a provider’s, often stoic, presentation lives interminable grief, pain, and loss, as they struggle to accept their inability to save the victim. The honor of caring for these fatalities bring an intense level of responsibility. Behavioral health professionals face a similar burden in rendering emergency and continuing mental health intervention to providers, witnesses, family, and community members. Recurrent workforce retruamatization has an especially fierce impact. The anguish contributes to rapidly escalating incidence of PTSD, suicidal ideation, and action across the workforce. Rates were high enough pre-pandemic, and continue to rise. The fusion of mental and physical health engulfs the body yielding escalation and exacerbation of chronic illness, auto-immune disorders, and other ailments; the workforce is being decimated.

Debriefing and Activating Advocacy

I’ve spent the better part of these past few weeks debriefing with past and present students, clinical social workers whom I supervise and mentor, experienced colleagues. Everyone is hurting in a unique way. Some need solace, while others require cues to stop doomscrolling. All demand action; workforce resource support and gun safety reform legislation are at the top of the list. 

Our emotions empower advocacy to heed the ethical tenets of autonomy, beneficence, fidelity, justice, and nonmalfeasance. Prioritizing these tenets ensures quality intervention for every patient and population, but also all health and behavioral health professions. Activating these principles looks different for each discipline. Yet, while each one shares distinct priorities, there is shared recognition of how interprofessional collaboration and advocacy will yield change including:

The industry must do better; our entire interprofessional workforce deserves far more. We must advocate amid the anguish, yet be ensured appropriate mental health support. How will you advocate for change? Feel free to add your comments about this blog post below, as well as other valuable resources. 

The Madness Behind My Market Validation and Professional Brand

Employers value investing in staff development, but that coveted benefit often falls to the bottom of the priority list from competing fiscal foci or insufficient funds. This is paradoxical amid the value-based healthcare climate where quality drives patient-satisfaction and ultimately, volume. That’s where my marketing validation madness enters the scene.

I frequently get queries about my entrepreneurial scope, especially after being a successful business owner for 18 years. I’ll fess up: this is not my traditional blog article, but serves dual duty as a Doctoral class assignment and my usual bi-weekly post. For those growing their professional identity and brand, it responds to queries I’ve received regarding my company’s fiscal focus, market validation, and ongoing trajectory.

Quality Professionals Render Quality Care, But

Healthcare organizations juggle costly operational priorities from delivery and quality of care, to population target scope, complexity, and case mix, as well as reimbursement and revenue capture. That Quadruple, if not Quintile Aim reigns supreme to render the right patient-centric care, at the right time, cost, by professionals who embrace the work, and informed by wholistic health equity. Yet, any healthcare organization’s quality of care also relies on hiring and retaining knowledge-rich, appropriately credentialed employees. Employers value investing in staff development, but that coveted benefit often falls to the bottom of the priority list from competing fiscal foci or insufficient funds. This is paradoxical amid the value-based healthcare climate where quality drives patient-satisfaction and ultimately, volume. That’s where my marketing validation madness enters the scene. 

Value via Alleviating Operational Burden

My blog followers may already know my mission; every contract I accept empowers the interprofessional workforce through knowledge acquisition. My services span CEU-products (webinars, presentations, trainings), professional speaking, authoring books and other publications, licensure supervision (Virginia only) and professional mentoring among other areas. My subject matter expertise is shared with associations, organizations and higher education; I teach at the baccalaureate and masters’ levels of academia. 

Organizations contract with me to ease their professional development burdens. I do the heavy lifting via per diem and bundled contracts encompassing their individualized needs. Some request CEU pre-approved content required for licensure or certification renewal of social workers, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and credentialed case managers (ACMs, CCMs). The high demand for mental health intervention mandates workforce expansion, and quickly; everyone wants to expand their behavioral health workforce but this takes a concerted effort. Social workers in Virginia seeking clinical licensure (LCSW) must receive Board-approved supervision process with an approved supervisor for 100 hours, a minimum of 1 hour of individual (or maximum of 50 hours of group) supervision weekly per 35-40-hr work week; this occurs in no less than 24 months and no more than 4 years from approval. Most healthcare organizations are unable to provide this labor-intensive process due to other staff priorities. It is worth an organization’s effort and time for a contracted provider as myself, to manage the regulatory rigor of application filing, regulatory monitoring of documentation, and service provision. Employers pay me a defined hourly rate for individual and group supervision. When an organization will not cover the (full) rate, individuals pay the same hourly rate. This actions yields a considerable return on investment for organizations: the more benefits provided for employees the better workforce retention, and patient satisfaction.

An Intentional Fiscal Focus 

Many presume my company provides therapy; this is unsurprising as a Virginia-licensed clinical social worker, certified clinical trauma professional with EMDR-basic certification, and holding credentialing as a board-certified case manager. Besides, there are a plethora of behavioral health billing codes I could leverage, especially with my integrated care scope. The current Magellan fee scale for Virginia Department of Medicaid Services is a fascinating read, though highlights an important disparity in payment; LCSWs earn 20-35% less than their fellow behavioral health colleagues (e.g., psychologists), per psychotherapy visit ($92 vs. $69 per 45 min, $120 vs. $90 per 60 min). That difference, plus time for billing and revenue capture, makes psychotherapy a tough road for sole proprietary, small business owners to travel, especially when it isn’t where the heart lies. It is also further incentive for me to continue empowering the workforce through my innovative business perspective, which is far more fiscally and professionally rewarding. 

Where Will My DBH-Road Lead?

I’ve carved out a unique, yet expansive space, locally, nationally, and globally; my assorted books and articles have a large global following. My gaze is always on market analysis to leverage expansion opportunities. Non-profit agencies or others who worry about affording my rates are never told no. Instead they are asked, “what can you afford?”. If an entity is interested in my unique presentation content, then we partner on pricing to make it accessible to them, as possible.

Expanding my brand happens organically at this point, as my energy drives ongoing inspiration and new dimensions for pursuit. As a Doctor in Behavioral Health Candidate (DBH-C), my lens spans the integrated care, population health, and health equity realms. I am an interprofessional subject matter expert working to mitigate physical, mental, and psychosocial health disparities. I also believe in the power of Trauma-informed care and leadership as vehicles to address workforce retention and manage turnover. These paths will provide further ways to spread those Doctoral wings. The author in me is excited to contribute my brain trust to industry white papers. I plan to advance my EMDR-training path and potentially offer intervention to our worn, interprofessional workforce. The incidence of collective occupational trauma from recent years is massive with EMDR a successful intervention to foster recovery from this unique trauma. Perhaps one day this blog will be monetized. Each of these services stays true to my current billing structure and company mission and vision. Where will my DBH-road go? The short answer is, wherever I want it to! Let this unique entrepreneurial journey continue!

15 Job Search Lessons for Social Work Grads

It’s that time of year! My Masters’ in Social Work students are ready to graduate and enter the workforce. Their efforts to secure employment pose new considerations courtesy of the pandemic. Here are 15 lessons to activate the job search for my students past and present.

Lesson 1: Organize 

Set up an electronic folder on your computer, with subfolders:

·       References

·       Cover letters

·       Interview questions

·       Submitted applications

·       Recruiter contacts

·       Key info about jobs applied for  

Develop an excel spreadsheet to track positions with information including application dates, if you heard back and when, job details (e.g., salary, key benefits, virtual or in-person, multiple sites), contact information. How to organize is up to you, but do something!

Lesson 2: Keep your resume focused, comprehensive, and competency-based.

A resume is your professional face. In your zest to post and send it to potential employers, you can easily include too much info, be too wordy, or use unprofessional language. Think:

·       Formatting: Use a resume template, plus career planning offices at your college or university, and: 

o  Indeed.com

o  The New Social Worker 

o  ResumeGenius  

·       Use competency-based language: Professions have competencies that viewed as pillars of practice. Use that language to describe roles for practicums, internships, or professional jobs; for example, ‘intervened with adolescent population’ instead of ‘worked with adolescents’. Another example is, ‘engaged in counseling’ instead of ‘provided, or did counseling’. Competency-based language also lives in course syllabi and licensure regulations for your state.

·       Attention to detail matters: A resume is your first impression to perspective employers. If there are errors, they will wonder, ‘if you can’t take the time to proof your own resume, why should they believe you’ll do better on the job?’. Do spelling AND grammar checks!

Lesson 3: Have references ready!

Reach out early to references and keep their names accessible! Maintain professional letters of recommendation in your online files. Keep references in the loop so they know to expect any calls or emails for information about you. With so many phishing emails, everyone is cautious about providing information. Your reference can easily miss a vital request to provide the recommendation that leads to a job offer!

Lesson 4: Stay in the know of current COVID 19 realities

Keep up on COVID19 facts and their impact for any populations you might work with. Brush up on Crisis theory, Trauma-informed care, and short-term counseling techniques. Also, review websites of potential employers for pandemic initiatives. This info will help you develop ideas on how to best serve the organization. Knowledge is power; this is a great way to tout your expertise in the interview!

Lesson 5: Know brief assessment tools and resources

With the uptick in mental health across populations and the workforce, have working knowledge of assessment tools to manage anxiety, stress, and depression. Quality resources live at Therapist Aid .

Lesson 6: Interviews are reciprocal opportunities

Interviews are not a guarantee of employment. Candidates can spend so much time during an interview discussing their expertise, they forget to ask key questions about the workplace. 

Research employers before the interview. View the employer’s website to learn their mission, vision, and goals. Learn how the organization conducts business. Ask questions about short and long term goals, and how they see you fitting into these plans. This tactic conveys your interest in the position. Interviews are for potential employers to interview you, but also you to interview them. This mindset puts you in control of the process, and decreases anxiety. Ask questions to learn if this job and setting are for you, such as those at Big Interview

Remember, decision-making timeframes vary, so ask about next steps. Organizations can take 2 days to make final decisions or months! Know what you are facing to help prioritize other offers!

Lesson 7: Ask about job stability

Amid such unpredictable times, it’s appropriate to ask about potential layoffs and furloughs. Some positions are funded by grants, so ask how long the position is funded and what happens next. Hiring freezes can be common and won’t necessarily be information shared. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.

Lesson 8: Be ready to name your unique strengths, and demonstrate them 

Job candidates will be asked how they will handle specific situations. Identify your strengths and how they would make a difference. Consider:

·       How do your strengths set you apart from other candidates?

·       Why should the organization hire you?

·       What examples can you provide so the employer understands your worth?

·       How can you demonstrate your ability to work with a team?

·       You will be asked about your weaknesses. Be prepared to respond in a professional manner, and have your answer ready. 

Lesson 9: The only constant in our industry is change 

Know this: the industry will change as will you; be open to what it means for you to change with it. 

Lesson 10: Be open to short-term or part-time roles

An exciting short-term or part-time role may turn into the best career option never anticipated. Don’t dismiss positions that are different from your expectations!

Lesson 11: Set up your professional social media profile. 

Set up a professional profile using established websites and job bank platforms. Facebook (or Meta) can help with networking, but use other websites that highlight recruitment:

Keep a profile professional! Use a polished photo versus a selfie with your BFF, pet, or family! Solid guidance is at What Recruiters Want to See on Your LinkedIn Profile

Lesson 12: Negotiation is expected

Negotiation is expected for any job. Negotiate for everything:

  • A higher hourly rate or salary
  • Remote options or flexible work hours
  • Coverage/reimbursement for professional fees (e.g. licensure exam application, exam prep courses, professional association dues)
  • Coverage/reimbursement for clinical supervision and if it is offered onsite. Organizations may pay a portion of the rate to the whole amount. They may only provide supervision internally or have waiting lists. If supervision is provided, you may need to promise to stay at the organization for set number of years post-completion, or pay pack a set amount.

You don’t know what you don’t know, so ask questions! The answers may surprise you! 

Lesson 13: Don’t be thrown by a title or position qualifications 

People apply for jobs based on titles; titles are deceptiveLearn about the scope of each role before dismissing a solid opportunity. 

Don’t dismiss a role based on qualifications alone. Application processes may ‘kick you out’ for not having hard competency qualifications (e.g., degree, licensure). Other knowledge or experiences can sway the decision; volunteer roles and practicums with a population speak volumes. Don’t assume you’re not qualified!

Lesson 14: Take the right job, not just any job

You want an income when you graduate, but strive for the right job. Listen to your clinical gut during the job search. Don’t jump on the first offer or settle if something feels off. Process the opportunity with peers, former professors, and mentors. We may be amid the Great Resignation, but, the grass isn’t always greener; there are brown spots everywhere. 

Lesson 15: Enjoy the job search

There is pressure to be employed, but explore opportunities. Get out there and enjoy the search!

I invite colleagues and followers to post other practical lessons below to empower our next generation of professionals!

New Annual Report Highlights Economic, Educational, and Racial Disparities

The economic, employment, and racial disparities detailed in County Health Rankings and Roadmaps’ 2022 Annual Report have a ripple effect across all social determinants of health. Access to all basic human needs is at issue and must be addressed.

County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (CHR&R) released their 2022 annual report this week, and what a read it is! Those in the health equity space unfamiliar with this resource need to get familiar quickly! The site provides current data and outcomes on societal disparities for every county in the United States. CHR & R was created by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The site is among my favorite “go to” sites for health disparities data, along with CMS’s Mapping US Medicare Disparities and the Health Equity Tracker courtesy of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and Morehouse School of Medicine). But, back to those CHR & R the interesting results!

What the Data Reveals

Much has been written during the pandemic about economic shifts and their impact on the population. The results of the CHR & R report are glaring, and have strong potential to impact wholistic health equity across physical, behavioral, and psychosocial health:

  • Many US residents do not earn a living wage: $35.80 an hour for households with one adult and two children:
    • In nearly all US counties, the typical wage is less than the living wage for the area. Among these counties, a more than 73% increase in wages is necessary to meet the living wage; some counties require a 229% increase.
  • The gender disparity gap is only eclipsed by that for racial disparities:
    • Women earn 81 cents on the dollar relative to White Men
    • Women of all races and ethnicities must work more time to earn the $61,807 average annual salary of a White man.
      • Asian Women: 34 days more (approximately 1 month)
      • White Women: 103 days more (> 3.5 months)
      • Black Women: 223 days more (> 7 months)
      • American Indian/Alaskan Native: 266 days (>8.5 months)
      • Hispanic Women: 299 days more (approximately 10 months)
    • The largest pay gaps exist in the South and Western Plains States, often related to prevailing systemic racism
  • Childcare costs negate the ability of many parents to work, and is considered unaffordable when it exceeds 7% of the household’s income:
    • No counties have the childcare cost for two children at or below the 7% benchmark
    • On average, a family with two children spends 25% of its household income on childcare 
    • Childcare cost burden is highest in urban metro regions and rural counties: 27% and 25% respectively
    • For a person earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25-an-hour, the average childcare costs for two children is >90% of their annual income.
  • Vast educational disparities appear across rural, suburban and urban schools:
    • 50% of all counties in the US have a public school funding deficit, needing to spend >$3,000 more per student, annually 
    • 70% of counties with deficits of > -$4,500 per student, annually, are rural
    • Counties with higher proportions of Black, Hispanic, and American Indian & Alaska Native populations have funding deficits higher than most US counties; deficits are especially high in certain areas, such as the Southern Black Belt region (systemic racism hits again).
    • Large school funding deficits (-$4,500 per student, annually) correlate with students performing below their grade level for reading and math.

Ripples Effects and Recommendations

The economic, employment, and racial disparities detailed in the report have a ripple effect across all social determinants of health. Access to all basic human needs is at issue, and must be addressed. The report includes a series of data maps, resources, and successful programming to mitigate the issues. Recommendations encompass, but are not limited to:

A table with additional measures and data sources are appears at end of the report, which reaffirms the product’s value to the industry. The report is accessible from the embedded URL above, or through the County Ranking and Roadmaps site, www.countyhealthrankings.org

Feel free to add your comments about this blog post below, or other valuable resources. 

Leading the Race for Health Equity: Are IPPS 2023 and CMS’s 2022 Strategic Plan Enough?

“Communities take care of their own”; that is especially true in attaining health equity. Was this grand effort by CMS too little, too late? Industry stakeholders have stepped up to lead the efforts for the population, and are now running far ahead of CMS.

News outlets were flush with reports last weeks of the latest happenings in the Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) space. The top stories were all aligned with press releases from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) touting efforts to address “Systemic Inequities” as part of their, 2022 Strategic Plan.

The bold effort encompassed: 

  1. Release of the Inpatient Prospective Payment System 2023 Rule, including the health equity trifecta of:
    • Request for public comment over the next 60 days on means to enhance and/or standardize SDoH documentation through data collection of inpatient claims and metrics that analyze disparities across programs and policies, including a request for information related to homelessness reported by hospitals on Medicare claims
    • Update of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) to improve performance for socially at-risk populations, and
    • Implementation of “birthing friendly” hospital designations to improve maternal health outcomes and reduce associated morbidity and mortality. 
  2. Commitment by (CMS) to mitigate health disparities through efforts aligned with Executive Order 13985Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government.; all CMS offices  are to embed health equity into the core of their work:
    • Aimed to better identify and respond to inequities in health outcomes,
    • Barriers to coverage, and 
    • Access to care.

The means to achieve these efforts included a robust plan that looks great on paper:

  • Close gaps in health care access, quality, and outcomes for underserved populations.
  • Promote culturally and linguistically appropriate services Build on outreach efforts to enroll eligible people across Medicare, Medicaid/CHIP and the Marketplace. 
  • Expand and standardize the collection and use of data, including race, ethnicity, preferred language, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, income, geography, et al. across CMS programs.
  • Evaluate policies to determine how CMS can support safety net providers 
  • Ensure engagement with and accountability to the communities served by CMS in policy development and program implementation 
  • Incorporate screening for and promote broader access to health-related social needs, including wider adoption of related quality measures, coordination with community-based organizations, and collection of social needs data in standardized formats 
  • Ensure CMS programs serve as a model and catalyst to advance health equity through our nation’s health care system, including with states, providers, plans, and other stakeholders.
  • Promote the highest quality outcomes and safest care for all people using the framework under the CMS National Quality Strategy.

Yet, my antennae shot up while reading one CMS quote:

“ The agency will bring together healthcare stakeholders—including payers—to promote implementing a health equity strategy. The first meeting will address achieving health equity in maternal healthcare, specifically. It will occur during the summer of 2022.”

Time to hurry up and wait. It seems the health equity strategy is not totally defined: shocking, I know! My elation at seeing formal acknowledgement and attention to, systemic inequities, was quickly dashed. Advancing legislation and funding for the SDoH alone will not fully mitigate the gaps in care. Most experts agree these well-intended efforts will fail, unless the systemic biases that have created and perpetuated the SDoH are also addressed. 

CMS will have to do better than introducing a health equity pillar with strategic language. On the other hand:

  • YES, for the $226.5 M announced this week via HHS and HRSA for Community Health Worker training; build that segment of the workforce. The fiscal and clinical impact of CHWs is massive, enhancing discharge planning outcomesenhancing treatment and resource access to the most at-risk patients and populations, which bridges serious gaps in care.
  • Develop, fund, and maintain the data exchange infrastructure: 
    • Expand and implement more end to end, social risk analytics and assessment programs like those in play by UniteUsSocially Determined., and 3M.
    • Expand ICD-10 CM Z codes and approve their reimbursement. I cloud the issue with logic, though reimbursing organizations for the blatant impact of the SDoH and MH on healthcare utilization (e.g., length of stay, ED admissions, readmissions, costs) would greatly enhance revenue coding and capture by healthcare organizations. Organizations will use the codes if there is direct fiscal incentive to do so. GO GRAVITY PROJECT !
    • Grow technology programs that directly support my hospital case management colleagues in assessing, referring, and directly connective patients to needed resources, such as FindHelp.
  • Expand, Food is Medicine programs nationwide, along with the means to assess and directly link patients to necessary nutritional resources GO FarmBoxRx, FoodSmart!
  • Grow funding to Community-based organizations, and safety-net programs, as in community action agencies, neighborhood health clinics, and federally qualified health centers: these are the folks in the trenches!

There was a time when, where CMS went (in terms of reimbursement, programming, and funding) the rest of the industry followed. Yet has this trend shifted? Many have heard me say, “Communities take care of their own”; that is especially true in attaining health equity. Was this latest effort by CMS enough? In time, outcomes will tell the story, but for now, industry stakeholders have stepped up to lead the efforts for their communities, and running ahead of pack.

Your comments are valued so feel free to add them below. 

The Dismal State of Maternal Wholistic Health for Women of Color

Change is long overdue for this massive maternal health chasm of wholistic health disparities, transcending physical, behavioral, and psychosocial health, and particularly for women of color (WOC)

April 11-17th marks annual Black Maternal Health Week. There will most likely be a flurry of well-intended articles, blog posts and announcements focused on legislation, funding of initiatives and programs, and advocacy. But here’s the lowdown: Black mothers have had higher mortality than White mothers for well over 100 years. They are > 3X more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications and 2X as likely to suffer from mental health issues than their White counterparts. The impact of historical, intergenerational, medical, racial trauma is invasive and enduring. Change is long overdue for this massive maternal health chasm of wholistic health disparities, transcending physical, behavioral, and psychosocial health, and particularly for women of color (WOC)

The recent Commonwealth Fund report on women’s reproductive health reveals how severe the issue remains:

  • U.S. women have the highest rate of maternal deaths among high-income countries. The current maternal mortality ratio of 17.4 per 100,000 pregnancies, equals roughly 660 maternal deaths. This earns the U.S. last place standing overall among all industrialized countries.
  • A woman’s chance of dying in southern states is 2X greater than those in the north:
    • Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma report death ratios of greater than 30:100,000 live births 
    • California, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania reported death ratios less than half the figures in those states, <15 deaths: 100,000 live births

Data for WOC is beyond alarming: 

  • The maternal death ratio for Black women is 37.1:100,000 pregnancies. The number is 2.5X the ratio for white women (14.7) and three times the ratio for Hispanic women (11.8).
  • Hispanic mothers were 80% as likely to receive late or no prenatal care as compared to non-Hispanic white mothers.
  • Black mother with a college education is at 60% greater risk for a maternal death than a White or Hispanic woman with less than a high school education.
  • Even when WOC verbalize health and mental health concerns to providers, their voice is disregarded:
    • WOC are more likely than White women to express their concerns and preferences regarding births though more frequently ignored
    • Women with Medicaid report inadequate postpartum care and support, where they are:
      • Pressured to have C-sections
      • Not scheduled for postpartum visits
      • Disrespected by providers due to insurance
  • Pregnancy-related mortality rates vary across ethnic groups, yet show a constant disturbing trend:
    • Black (40.8%), American Indian/Alaska Native (29.7%), Asian Pacific Islander (13.5%), and Hispanic (11.5%) compared to Whites (12.7%).
    • Upwards of 60% of these deaths are preventable. A CDC report, reveals the often avoidable causes:
      • Infection (13%)
      • Postpartum bleeding (11%)
      • Cardiovascular conditions such as Cardiomyopathy (11%), 
      • Blood clots (9%), 
      • High blood pressure (8%), 
      • Stroke (7%), and a category combining other cardiac conditions (15%). 

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week is scheduled annually for the first week in May, though bears mention. Not treating maternal mental health conditions costs $32,000 per mother-infant pair, totaling $14.2 billion nationally

  • Black women are twice as likely as Whites to suffer from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and less likely to receive treatment: 40% compared to 20-25%  
  • Indigenous women have a higher incidence of depression, anxiety, and substance misuse during the perinatal period from 17-47%; Indigenous identity increased the likelihood by 62%
  • Migrant WOC are at greater risk for behavioral health issues during pregnancies (e.g., depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress) from the interaction of psychosocial determinants as forced migration plus generalized insecurity associated with experiences as refugees, asylum seekers, and human trafficking victims

Endless data validates WOC’s maternal health mandates. Recent years have witnessed robust action courtesy of fierce voices and tireless work of many entities in the US and around the globe. Their agendas serve as a clearinghouse of efforts. The list below is a starting point of resources:

The “honorary” annual week is valued, but a wholistic health crisis of this magnitude mandates far more than 7 days of attention. Distinct legislation, dedicated and substantial funding at federal, state and local levels is vital. Yet, these efforts are for naught unless the systemic racism and implicit bias that perpetuate this reality are equally addressed. We must:

  • Identify, call out, and dismantle systemic racism across macro, meso, and micro spaces
  • Develop and implement population-inclusive clinical predictive analytics and algorithms
  • Ensure dedicated quality metrics that report the necessary outcomes to drive clinical programming, treatment, and concordant practices
  • Shift the academic curriculum to better prepare the interprofessional workforce to provide population-specific care without bias
  • Continue to advance the concordant provider-base
  • Expand ethnic, racial, and cultural programming, such as reimbursement of community-based Doulas, especially in medically underserved areas.
  • Expand access to fertility treatments and address racial disparities in outcomes for IVF. Black women are more likely to have infertility compared to other races, yet the access to treatment is minimal

Data has long validated this epidemic’s emergent state, which has continued to escalate. Maternal wholistic health is a public health emergency of the highest priority. This article is just the tip of the iceberg. I invite those in this care space to post additional resources and information.

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