Action Alerts and Legislative Updates

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The Arizona Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-AZ) letter to Governor Ducey regarding SB 1138, SB 1164 and SB 1165. 

The Honorable Doug Ducey
Governor of Arizona 
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Dear Governor Ducey, 

The National Association of Social Workers – Arizona Chapter respectfully requests for you to veto SB 1138, SB 1164, and SB 1165. These bills do not reflect the values of Arizona to create and foster an environment for all individuals to live, work, play and raise a family. These policies announce to the rest of the country that Arizona is in fact only open and welcoming to some, rather than to all. 

The National Association of Social Workers represents the largest group of professional social workers in the world and social work is also the largest growing profession in our country with nearly 720,000 social workers nationwide and 3 million globally. We represent a diverse range of professionals working in different settings and legislation aimed at limiting access to services for trans youth or pregnant women has detrimental impacts to the clients and communities we serve. We believe clients should have safe, and protected access to mental and physical health care in our state, and we support all confidential discussions between a provider and a client around the best care for them. Any legislation that allows a person to deny services based on a personal bias is antithetical to our Code of Ethics and professional values.

Legislation that attempts to limit or weaponize conversations within a therapeutic relationship go directly against social work values. The social work Code of Ethics indicates that professional values should never impede a client’s right to self-determination and access to care and resources. Social workers empower and support people in their journeys, which may include explorations about identity or resources related to terminating a pregnancy. 

Regarding SB 1138, it is the overwhelming consensus among major medical associations and mental health professional associations that gender-affirming care is a lifesaving, best-practice care for transgender and gender expansive youth.These positions are well grounded in evidence-based, peer reviewed, social science research. Our social work professionals rely on the current and essential care rendered by Arizona medical professionals. Research has consistently demonstrated that access to affirming care and professionals is a protective factor against otherwise all too common rates of PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and self-harm. However, when youth are accepted and affirmed the rates of mental distress and suicide decrease. Access to gender-affirming care for youth saves lives, reduces the likelihood of harm, and promotes healing. 

Furthermore, SB 1165 attempts to elevate a problem in K-12 sports that does not exist in Arizona. It is an overreach of state government that implies the Arizona Interscholastic Association cannot fairly regulate competitive female sporting programs. Children just want to fit in and play with their peers. Further stigmatizing and isolating them only serves to harm. Additionally, it puts our state at an economic risk of losing future NCAA tournaments which contribute to the state’s tourism revenue.

Lastly, pregnancy can be a high-risk time in a person’s life and an abortion may be medically necessary to preserve a patient’s health, future fertility, or their life. Legislation such as SB 1164, would force clinicians into an unconscionable choice between their patients needed care or violating state law. Restrictive laws such as this could undermine efforts to recruit and retain clinicians in Arizona at a time when our healthcare system is already strained and in need of these medical professionals. 

We respectfully request you to listen to individuals impacted by these harmful bills and the social workers working to support them. In addition, we ask to seek perspectives from the professional medical and mental health communities about how these bills would endanger licensed professionals and damage interactions with clients and communities. Social workers must have the freedom and autonomy as a profession to support everyone’s decision-making ability and provide the space for conversations about gender identity and protect discussions between a provider and a client around reproductive care. For the sake of our youth, women in Arizona, their families and the medical and mental health professionals who work with them, we urge you to veto SB 1138, SB 1164, and SB 1165.

Brandie Reiner, MSW
Executive Director, NASW, Arizona Chapter

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The Arizona Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-AZ) respectfully urges the House Judiciary Committee to vote no on SB 1399. 

The National Association of Social Workers represents the largest group of professional social workers in the world. Social work is also the largest growing profession in our country with nearly 720,000 social workers nationwide and 3 million globally. We represent a diverse range of professionals working in different settings and legislation that seeks to promote reasonable accommodations for people of faith must do so in a manner that protects all Arizonans equally, regardless of their beliefs. 

We do not believe SB 1399 adequately balances the rights and wellbeing of children in the state’s care and this imbalance is intolerable:An agency could refuse to provide family reunification services to a parent who does not go to church or was divorced.

  • An agency could refuse to care for children who do not share its faith or turn away prospective adoptive or foster families who practice a different religion.
  • A foster home could impose a particular religion on children in its care, regardless of whether the children share that faith.
  • An employee of any private agency could place a child with strangers instead of a close relative because the relative is gay or transgender.  
  • An employee with pacifist religious beliefs could refuse to perform a home study needed to place a medically needy child with a doctor who is able to care for her because the doctor served in the military.
  • A foster family could actively obstruct a pregnant teenager from accessing reproductive care.
  • A secular child welfare agency that contracts with the state could be unable to enforce its own policies and procedures against employees who claim to act on the basis of personal religious beliefs.

Additionally, LGBTQIA+ youth are already three times more likely to enter foster care than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers. We should not take actions that further discriminate against youth in these systems of care at a time when there is broad bipartisan support to reduce the number of children and families involved in the child welfare system.

The state’s child welfare services must provide for every child in need of its protection. The system functions best when it reflects the diverse values and cultural traditions of our great state. We do not believe that SB 1399 advances these goals to uphold our commitment to religious liberty without sacrificing the right children and families have to be treated with equal respect and dignity under the law.

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Testimony on SB 1138 from House Judiciary Committee on 3/9/2022

The National Association of Social Workers represents the largest group of professional social workers in the world. Social work is also the largest growing profession in our country with nearly 720,000 social workers nationwide and 3 million globaly. We represent a diverse range of professionals working in different settings and legislation aimed at limiting access to services for trans youth has detrimental impacts to the communities we serve. We believe clients should have safe, and protected access to mental and physical health care for all persons in our state, and we support all confidential discussions between a provider and a client around the best care for them. 

It is the overwhelming consensus among major medical associations and mental health professional associations that gender- affirming care is a lifesaving, best-practice care for transgender and gender expansive youth. These positions are well grounded in evidence-based, peer reviewed, social science research. Our social work professionals rely on the current and essential care rendered by Arizona medical professionals. Research has consistently demonstrated that access to affirming care and professionals is a protective factor against otherwise all too common rates of PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and self-harm. However, when youth are accepted and affirmed the rates of mental distress and suicide decrease. Access to gender-affirming care for youth saves lives, reduces the likelihood of harm, and promotes healing. 

In addition, this bill violates the NASW Code of Ethics, which calls on social workers to work on behalf of the well-being of our clients. Section 6 Social Workers’ Ethical Responsibilities to the Broader Society requires social workers to: 

Act to expand choice and opportunity for all people with special regard for vulnerable, disadvantaged, oppressed, and exploited people and groups. [6.04(b)]

Promote conditions that encourage respect for cultural and social diversity. [6.04 (c)]

Act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group or class based on race, ethnicity, national origin color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status or mental or physical ability. [6.04 (d)]

This bill does not support the core values of the social work profession and goes against accepted professional standards of care relating to transgender youth, grounded in scientific research, and supported by medical and mental health experts. For the sake of our youth, their families and the medical and mental health professionals who work with them, we urge you not to pass this legislation.

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The Arizona Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-AZ) requests advocacy assistance for the following bills during the week of Feb. 28, 2022: 

In Support:

  • SB 1272 (AHCCCS; postpartum care; eligibility; appropriations): By increasing coverage to one year postpartum, lives will be saved. Fifty percent of maternal deaths occur in the first year after giving birth and 85% of them are preventable with access to health care. Roughly one in 7 women experiences postpartum depression (PPD) in the year following birth. Low-income women are 11 times more likely to develop PPD than higher-income women.

  • HB 2274 (appropriation; stipend; kindship foster care): Appropriation; Stipend; Kinship Care increases the kinship stipend from $75 per month per child to $300 per month per child. Keeping children within their communities is shown to have positive effects and minimizes the trauma children in systems of care already face. Bills like HB 2274 provide people that already exist in the children’s circles with financial support giving them access to more resources to help the children feel secure in their new environment.

In Opposition:

  • SB 1581 (technical correction; industrial development; insurance): Essentially criminalizes homelessness. Allows the Arizona Dept of Housing to disburse grants to a city, town or county to “establish a sanctioned camping site for homeless individuals.”  To be eligible to receive the grant the city or county must “enforce ordinances in place that prohibit sleeping and camping in public places that are not designated as camping sites.” The bill also allows the department to disburse grants to “nonprofit organizations to establish or support homeless outreach teams.” Homeless outreach teams are required to include “law enforcement officers, contracted off-duty law enforcement officers or contracted security officers” and social service and mental health professionals. Municipalities and counties are not liable in any civil action that arises out of the operation of a camp unless it involves intentional or gross negligent conduct.
  • SB 1138 (irreversible gender reassignment surgery; minors): Our social work professionals rely on the current and essential care rendered by Arizona medical and mental health professionals. Research has consistently demonstrated that access to affirming care and professionals is a protective factor against otherwise all too common rates of PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and self-harm, when youth are accepted and affirmed the rates of mental illness and suicide decrease.
  • SCR 1012: Imposes new ID requirements on vote by mail (have to put SS number, voter ID number or Driver’s License number on your mail in ballot) and requires photos ID for person voting (eliminating existing non-shot ID options). Referral and would appear on the November 2022 ballot if it passes. 
  • HCR 2025: Contains most of the same from SCR 1012 but not all the provision of the voter ID citizen initiative. Requires mail in ballot voters to include an ID number (DL/state ID, SSN or voter ID) and their DOB on the mail ballot affidavit. For in person voting, eliminates non-photo ID options. Ballot referral would be on November 2022 ballot if passed.
  • HB 2161 (parental rights; schools; educational records): A transparent attempt by legislators to deprive students of a diverse and inclusive education. Having staff supportive of LGBTQ students was related to feeling safer in school and missing fewer days of school. Students with more supportive staff at their schools were less likely to feel unsafe regarding their sexual orientation or gender expression, as well as less likely to miss school because of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. For example, 44.8% of students with a high number (11 or more) of supportive staff reported feeling unsafe regarding their sexual orientation, compared to 74.2% of students with low number (0 to 5) of supportive staff.
  • SB 1165 (interscholastic; intramural athletics; biological sex): As a diverse range of professionals working in different settings, social workers are obligated to support all individuals. Legislation aimed at limiting access to services or activities for trans youth has detrimental impacts to LGBTQIA+ individuals. The legislature’s attempts to ban care for trans youth or create exclusionary policies for sports are in direct opposition to the inclusion social workers provide. Any legislation that allows a person to deny services based on a personal bias is antithetical to our Code of Ethics and professional values.

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SB 1620: social worker positions; qualifications; prohibitions

The Arizona Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-AZ) has worked with Senator Rios to introduce SB 1620: social worker positions; qualifications; prohibitions.

In Arizona, Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) have title protection under the law and legislation enacted last year eliminated a loophole for anyone advertising or practicing psychotherapy without a license. We have heard from many of you in the community that agencies still advertise for social work positions but hire individuals without a social work degree, while still calling the role a social worker. The bill seeks to: 

  • Restrict advertising of “social work services” to those individuals who hold a social work degree.
  • Set minimum standards for hiring social work positions and protects the scope of social work practice. 
  • Enhance the delivery of social work services by state, county, and city agencies.
  • Address workforce shortage issues by ensuring social workers are hired to fill social services positions and ensures salary expectations.  

NASW-AZ strongly recommends the legislature protect individuals, families, and our communities from receiving sub-standard services by enacting a form of title protection to ensure only properly trained social workers are hired into social work positions.

Additionally, we thank Senators Gabaldon, Otondo, Quezada, Steele and Representative Dalessandro who have also co-sponsored this legislation. 

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SB 1165, SB 1130, SB 1138

The National Association of Social Workers – Arizona Chapter stands opposed to the continuous legislative attempts to attack and discriminate against LGBTQIA+ persons and the discrimination that legislation symbolizes for the LGBTQIA+ community. As a diverse range of professionals working in different settings, social workers are obligated to support all individuals. Legislation aimed at limiting access to services or activities for trans youth has detrimental impacts to LGBTQIA+ individuals. The legislature’s attempts to ban care for trans youth or create exclusionary policies for sports are in direct opposition to the inclusion social workers provide. Any legislation that allows a person to deny services based on a personal bias is antithetical to our Code of Ethics and professional values. 

Legislation has been filed that would make gender-affirming care child abuse and legislation that attempts to limit or weaponize conversations within a therapeutic relationship go directly against social work values. The social work Code of Ethics indicates that professional values should never impede a client’s right to self-determination and access to care and resources. Social workers empower and support people in their journeys, which may include explorations about identity. Those conversations within any type of social work relationship should never be defined as child abuse or serve as a reason to terminate services, as some Arizona legislation would propose. 

We respectfully request legislators to listen to the LGBTQIA+ community and reflect on how this harmful legislation would impact them and the social workers working to support them. In addition, we ask that they truly listen to all perspectives from the professional medical and mental health communities about how this legislation would endanger licensed professionals and damage interactions with clients and communities. Social workers must have the freedom and autonomy as a profession to support everyone’s decision-making ability and provide the space for conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation. 

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HB 2811, SB 1164, SB 1347, SB 1340, SB 1339 

The Arizona Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-AZ) remains opposed to any efforts to limit, restrict, or ban reproductive care and access for any person, including abortion and conversations with social workers about abortion and reproductive options. We believe in the expansion of healthcare, and abortion is a form of healthcare. Social Work Speaks, 12ed, and the NASW priorities are guided by a person’s right to choose their care:

-“NASW opposes the repeal of Roe V. Wade.” (Social Work Speaks, 12th Edition)

-“NASW supports efforts to objectively educate individuals on the range of options available to them when facing an unplanned pregnancy, including abortion and adoption services, based on evidence and the beliefs of the client.” (Social Work Speaks, 12th Edition)

-The NASW Code of Ethics, Section 1.02, compels us to respect and promote the right of our clients to self-determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their own life goals. 

-Ensure that every Arizonan has access to affordable, quality healthcare, with an emphasis on low-income and at-risk populations, including women’s reproductive health, and explore ways to increase Medicaid eligibility and access.

We oppose the numerous legislative efforts to restrict abortion access. NASW-AZ advocates for safe, legal access to reproductive care for all persons in our state, and we support all discussions between a provider and a client around reproductive care. NASW-AZ will continue to support access to reproductive health, including abortion, and oppose efforts to restrict or limit access.

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Bill from 2021 Session (everything above this section is for the current legislative session): 

SB 1482 (professions; therapy ban prohibition)

The Arizona Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-AZ) is strongly opposed to SB 1482 (professions; therapy ban prohibition). This legislation creates a gray area between what is permitted in statute and what is ethically responsible by allowing a clinician to discriminate or practice unsupported and harmful techniques against a client based on selective personal values. Additionally, this bill appears to remove the role of licensing boards in disciplining or withdrawing the license of individuals who conduct harmful, unethical and unsupported therapeutic techniques, posing the greatest risk to the public. These unethical and harmful practices might include performing techniques known to be ineffective, dangerous and not based in science, all under the umbrella of a clinician’s “conscience or religious belief”. If passed, this bill would remove fundamental protections for ethical therapeutic practice on a broad basis. 

Additionally, under the NASW Code of Ethics, social workers are already able to decline services to a client based on their competencies and training, but they cannot discriminate based on the clinician’s selective personal values or religious beliefs. No client should be subject to an unethical, unsupported or harmful treatment based solely on the provider’s personal values. Conscience bills such as SB 1482 lead to dysfunctional mental health delivery and compromise the quality of care by creating barriers to meeting the needs of the client. 

NASW-AZ strongly opposes violating the professional and ethical principles set forth by professional mental health standards and administered in alignment with the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiner’s responsibility to protect the safety and well-being of the public. Furthermore, we oppose the violation of a client’s autonomy and self-determination based on an effort to protect an individual’s “conscience or religious belief” that does not align with the social work profession’s ethical principles, standards or values. 


SB 1089:

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard SB 1089 (behavioral health professionals; unauthorized practice) on Wednesday, February 3rd. In general, NASW Arizona has been supportive of this bill as it takes necessary actions to ensure professional integrity and public safety. However, at this time NASW Arizona cannot support the amendment to A.R.S.32-3293 related to licensed clinical social workers, licensure and qualifications. 

The adopted amendment would lower the 3,200 total hours required toward clinical licensure and would only require the 1,600 of direct client contact hours within the twenty-four months following receipt of a master’s degree. The amendment still requires the 100 hours of supervision but eliminates the 1,600 indirect client service hours. This change is inconsistent with neighboring states in our region and brings our standards to one of the lowest in the nation. Additionally, we have found no research nor evidence related to professional standards for social work licensure to support this change. Moreover, we raise concerns with respect to licensure mobility and caution this may inadvertently place undue burden and barriers for social work professionals seeking licensure endorsements in other states. 

The requirements for indirect hours are reinforced by a standardized exam for clinical social worker (CSW) licensure, which the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) administers and is required in all states for social work licensure. If candidates do not practice the necessary indirect tasks required for practice, it could compromise their preparation for the exam and overall test results. Without further evidence to ensure the flexibility, mobility and professional integrity of our licensure standards, we cannot support this amendment, or this bill at this time. 

If there are issues related to understanding the requirements needed for direct and indirect hours for clinical licensure, we respectfully request data to support this and request to work directly with the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners (ABBHE) rather than requiring statutory changes. We acknowledge the need for more licensed clinical social workers in our communities across Arizona and are committed to working constructively with local partners, community leaders, the state legislature and the ABBHE to implement effective licensing policy for social work. 

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Resources for Social Workers Regarding Recent Immigration Law


Many social workers are concerned about the new AZ law that requires state employees to report undocumented persons to the INS. This legal brief below is a resource compiled by the NASW Office of General Counsel and has been published as the January 2010 Legal Issue of the Month.

Social workers may have a general concept of immigration requirements, but this area of law is both complex and volatile.  U.S. laws and policies affecting the status of immigrants have evolved over time in response to various social, political and economic pressures.  More recently, in the wake of welfare reform in the 1990s, and in the post 9/11 era, U.S. immigration policy has returned to an exclusionary focus that has turned toward conflating criminality and undocumented immigration status.  Although immigration laws are within the exclusive purview of the federal government, a number of states have attempted to address concerns about violations of immigration law by residents bypassing various exclusionary measures.  This may create legal questions and ethical dilemmas for social workers who work in programs or areas serving immigrants.  When social workers are used as enforcers of exclusionary government policies to the extent of “turning in” violators, valid questions may be raised about the extent a social worker may meet both legal and ethical obligations.  This Legal Issue of the Month article reviews recent legal policy as enacted by U.S. Congress, the state of Arizona and related interpretations of the law regarding immigrants’ eligibility for public benefits, documentation and reporting requirements.

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SB 1519-Take Action

On Thursday, April 19th, the Senate Commerce & Public Safety Committee will hear SB1519:  protective orders; schools; appropriations. There is a strike everything amendment to SB1519. NASWAZ encourages you to voice your concerns using the "Request to Speak System," or by contacting the Senate Commerce & Public Safety Committee members directly.

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NASW Arizona Condemns Trump’s Charlottesville Comments in Advance of Visit to Arizona

The Arizona Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent comments by President Trump equating Neo-Nazi, white supremacists, and other hate groups with counter-protesters in Charlottesville, VA. The facts and history do not support President Trump’s statements.

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