Chapter News

Marc-Herstand

COVID-19, WILL IT EVER END?

As we navigate a hybrid 2021 annual conference and renewed mask mandates in Dane County, the thought has come to my mind-when will this pandemic end?

It is very frustrating to me that the main reason the Delta variant is raging throughout our country, requiring renewed masking and limiting what we can do, is because so many people in this country and state have here-to-date declined to be vaccinated. The polarization on masking and vaccines between the Democratic and Republican parties in this country, as well as the American long-time value of individualism and personal freedom, is literally sickening, and in many cases, killing people.

The concept of individualism and personal freedom can be an important value, as long as it doesn’t impact negatively on the health and lives of others. Efforts to stop mask or vaccine mandates can clearly lead to increases in Covid-19 infections and even deaths.

Currently State Senator Andre Jacque is fighting for his life on a ventilator. He was a big opponent of vaccine requirements and mask mandates. During the week of August 10th , he testified at two separate legislative hearings. I also testified at those hearings and spoke with him briefly about one of the bills. (He was the lead sponsor on a tele-health bill we supported).I wore a mask the entire time I was at the Capitol and I am sure glad I did so. Senator Jacque did not, and later that week was diagnosed with Covid-19.His wife is now publicly encouraging everyone to trust the medical profession and get vaccinated.

There has been an increase in vaccinations in our country recently, likely the result of so many unvaccinated people getting very sick, and in some cases dying. It is so sad that it takes people dying to break through irrational fears about the vaccination and ideological opposition to public health measures.

At the Wisconsin Chapter, we are doing our best to navigate this continuing pandemic. Kristina, our interns and I are back to wearing masks at staff meetings and when we get up from our desk. We are implementing strict Covid-19 requirements at our annual conference including requirements that all attendees and all Wilderness staff wear masks at all times, except when eating or drinking. We will have hand sanitizers and extra masks for all participants. To the extent possible, we will be social distancing people in sessions. We have organized a hybrid conference so attendees can choose either to attend in person or virtually.

As noted elsewhere in this newsletter, our advocacy for continued reimbursement of tele-mental health, including phone therapy past the public health emergency, continues on a state and national level. Tele-mental health, including phone therapy, became universal during this Covid-19 pandemic.Through this process, practitioners learned that there are many clients who are only able to access psychotherapy through tele-mental health, particularly in rural parts of the state. Without tele-mental health, clients face many barriers, including extreme anxiety about going to an office to receive therapy, lack of transportation, lack of child care, lack of nearby providers, concerns about confidentiality if one’s car is seen at a therapy office, and language and cultural barriers. Practitioners have also seen their no-show rate plummet with the use of tele-mental health.

Many practitioners have expressed tremendous concern that insurance companies will decide that “Covid is over” and then either eliminate reimbursement for tele-mental health or reduce reimbursement for this type of practice.

I appreciate everything all of you have done to navigate through this pandemic to continue to provide services to your clients. Thanks for your flexibility, persistence, learning and courage over this past 18 months. The challenges you have faced in serving your clients will only continue with a likely surge of children returning to in-person school needing mental health support.

None of us can know what the future will bring. We certainly did not think we would still be dealing with Covid-19, 18 months after our lockdown in March 2020.We can only manage our own lives in a safe manner that protects ourselves, our loved ones, colleagues, clients and neighbors and hope that over time, our state, country and world gets on top of this pandemic with everyone’s cooperation and support.

Be safe and healthy everyone and carry on your wonderful work!

Dawn-Shelton-Williams

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT

Autumn(Fall) is one of my favorite times of the year.  The change of season from Summer to Fall is marked by changes in nature.  The temperature begins to cool down and the leaves begin to change from green to bright beautiful colors of red, yellow, and orange!  Fall also makes me think about the concepts of change and transformation.  Change and Transformation that are observed both in personal and environmental spaces of a person’s life.  I read an article about the Seven Symbolic Meanings of  Autumn by Kirsten Nunez (2016).  The article focuses on how to embrace change that comes with the Autumn season.  In the article, she talks about what she learned about the Seven Symbolic Meanings associated with the Autumn Equinox. She talks about Autumn as a time for self -reflection, change, and reconnection. The Seven Symbolic Meanings identified in the article are:

Change  

Mystery

Preservation

Protection

Comfort

Balance

Letting Go

Heraclitus, the Greek Philosopher, is referenced for the first symbolic meaning of Autumn(Fall) which is Change. Heraclitus stated that “The only constant is change”.  Fall reminds us that our minds, bodies, and surroundings are always changing.  We experience this as we begin to observe the changes in nature in Fall.  The temperature begins to cool down and the leaves on the trees begin to change from green to bright colors of red, orange and yellow!   Since change is constant, it is a good reminder to us to embrace experiences as they happen.  It is important to embrace them in the present.  Life is short and we do not know what it will bring to us from minute to minute.  Mystery is described as the outcome that comes from the day to day changes in Life. Change in life brings on new mysteries.  I like to view the new mysteries as new opportunities in life.  Preservation is the third symbolic meaning in the article.  Fall represents the preservation of life and its basic necessities.  The author discusses that during Fall, animals begin to store food and find safe places for hibernation for winter. Farmers begin to harvest crops for food for the winter.  As the weather begins to change(falling temperatures), we tend to spend more time in the safety and comfort of our homes.  This is a good time for us to reconnect with ourselves.  As Summer switches to Fall, we focus on Protection.  Protection is viewed from a physical lens.  We begin to dress in warmer clothes to protect ourselves from the cooler temperatures and focus more on taking care of ourselves so that we do not get sick. The fifth symbolic meaning of Autumn is Comfort.  As the temperature drops, we tend to look for ways to find comfort within our homes.  This is a good time to reflect on what makes us happy and what makes us feel safe.  Balance is the next symbolic meaning of Autumn in the article.  Day and night are the same length during the Autumn Equinox.  Ancient cultures associated the Autumn Equinox with the concept of Balance in life.  During Autumn, the author describes us harmonizing with the earth and drawing from the balance within ourselves. The last symbolic meaning of Autumn in the article is Letting Go.  When we look within ourselves, what can we let go?

Although the article focused on the 7 Symbolic Meanings of Autumn (Fall), I thought about how these meanings can be integrated within social work practice.  As social workers, we deal with change and transformation on a daily basis.  We are skilled in dealing with social issues on the micro and macro levels to help people who are often seen as “invisible” or “voiceless” in society.I challenge you to think about the concepts of Change; Mystery; Preservation; Protection;  Comfort; Balance; and Letting Go, and how you integrate these concepts into your social work practice as you help others and how do you integrate them within your personal life as a social worker.

By Dawn Shelton-Williams, MSW, LCSW