CHRISTIAN CARRION — Staff Writer
University Interim President Stanley Battle acknowledged the importance of information regarding the legislative process in his welcome address for the first annual Legislative Policy Showcase held in Southern’s Charles Garner Recital Hall Thursday night.
“There is a great need for the work that you all do,” Battle, a former social worker, said to the audience of over 50 faculty members and social work majors. “It’s important to know who’s affected, how they are affected, when they will be affected, and how much it’s going to cost.”
The showcase, sponsored by Southern’s social work department, was a panel discussion highlighting the 2012 legislative agendas of several Connecticut social service agencies, such as the Department of Children and Families, the South Central Connecticut Agency on Aging and the SCSU Veterans’ Office.
“We’re always working to be more proactive,” said Josh Howroyd, legislative program manager for the Department of Children and Families. “It’s a challenge operating a public agency under the legislative process, but it’s a necessary role.”
Howroyd, who has worked with DCF for over 20 years, said the agency is looking to implement changes to some of the long-standing methods in which they have worked with clients, such as placing at-risk children in the care of relatives rather than in foster homes. These changes, according to Howroyd, will facilitate a necessary shift in their roles from case managers to true social workers.
“We’re always going to be focused on child safety,” Howroyd said, “but it’s important that we change the whole philosophical way we approach families.”
Brian McNeill, a social work major and captain in the National Guard, represented the SCSU Veterans’ Office at the showcase. A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, McNeill stressed the importance of improved physical and mental health care for veterans.
“The protective equipment over there is very good,” McNeill, who joined the National Guard in 1999 and attends Southern under the GI Bill, said. “It can prevent you from getting blown up or shot, but it doesn’t prevent you from getting shaken up or traumatized, and too many men and women are coming home like that.”
Julie Delgauda is the Care Management Director at the South Central Connecticut Agency on Aging, which helps over 4,000 senior citizens and people with disabilities find resources concerning health insurance, home care, and other issues. Delgauda said she believes that in the face of a large state budget deficit, legislative advocacy is key to making differences during next year’s legislative session.
“I really do not believe we can take a dismal approach,” Delgauda said, “because it’s going to be more than one person can do. Things are dismal from a fiscal standpoint, but we can not be discouraged.”
The Agency on Aging, which receives state funding, faced a state proposal last year that would require each of its clients to pay 15 percent of the $840 needed to maintain home health care. Delgauda said through a large-scale advocacy effort, they were able to bring that rate down to a more manageable 7 percent. She cited this as an example of what people working together in legislative advocacy can do.
“No one person can do everything,” said Delgauda. “Find your niche, read up on what’s being proposed and be informed. It’s very, very important.”
Southern’s social work department is also sponsoring a Lobby Day in the spring, when students will be bussed to the General Assembly in Hartford to lobby for their specific issues.