Lauri Goldkind, associate professor at Fordham University, will lead a session on artificial intelligence (AI) in human services at the upcoming CEO Convening, May 1-3 in Detroit. During the session, she’ll help participants assess opportunities and challenges related to using AI in human services organizations. This rapidly developing technology holds promising benefits for greater efficiency and effectiveness; however, it must be implemented strategically. Participants will be introduced to the three main applications of generative AI, learn how to conduct an organizational readiness assessment, and consider the elements of an organizational AI policy.

Goldkind’s research interests include data justice, AI and data ecosystems in nonprofit management, and telemental health and human rights. She has coauthored two articles for Social Current’s journal, Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services. The journal offers peer-reviewed content that continually advances the social work profession.

“That’s the Beauty of It”: Practitioners Describe the Affordances of Direct-to-Consumer Tele-Mental Health
Lauri Goldkind and Lea Wolf
Published 2021, Vol. 102 (Issue 4)

This qualitative study uses the framework of affordances, derived from James Jerome Gibson, to examine what social work practitioners working on direct-to-consumer tele-mental health (DTCTMH) platforms are discovering about the features, benefits, and constraints of virtual therapy.

An interpretive phenomenological approach was employed to document the lived experiences of social workers who practice in this manner. According to the practitioners interviewed, for a subset of individuals seeking treatment, DTCTMH can offer meaningful interpersonal interaction that confers benefit. Key affordances include accessibility, anonymity, meaningful work, autonomy, lifelong learning, and access by new populations. Practitioners simultaneously acknowledge the ethical complexities and structural challenges of DTCTMH practice. The article concludes with suggestions for future research, policy, and practice.

Selling Your Soul on the Information Superhighway: Consenting to Services in Direct-to-Consumer Tele-Mental Health
Lauri Goldkind and Lea Wolf
Published 2020, Vol. 101 (Issue 1)

The practice of on-demand digital psychotherapy presents ethical questions, as new economic models, service delivery systems, and therapeutic models are introduced. Virtual therapy, now offered on a subscription basis by third-party providers, requires users to accept terms of service (ToS) agreements.

This article describes the results of a survey in which participants (n = 579) were asked to compare the values of the Human Rights framework with the language of one tele-mental health platform’s ToS user agreement. Findings suggest that those clients with prior experience with a mental health professional will find the ToS agreements to be the most ethically compromised. Similarly, individuals who are employed and have attained a higher level of education also found the ToS to be ethically suspect. Of those who were surveyed, individuals who hold less education and those who are unemployed, may be at most risk for signing consent to a system they do not understand. The study provides one example of the ethical questions that emerge from the introduction of a new model of for-profit service provision in mental health. Recommendations for consumers and practitioners are suggested.

How to Gain Access to Social Work Research

Social Current’s Knowledge and Insights Center offers the research and resources human services professionals need to stay current on emerging trends, implement practices, and advance organizational excellence. One feature of the Knowledge and Insights Center is the complete collection of Families in Society journal content, dating back to 1920.

In addition, users have access to an extensive resource library with thousands of catalog records in more than 20 topic collections, EBSCOhost, and customized research requests with knowledgeable librarians.

The Knowledge and Insights Center is one of the many benefits of being a Social Current Impact Partner. Other benefits include convenings and networking opportunities, complimentary participation in our workforce resilience virtual learning series, and special cost savings on solutions from Social Current and our Strategic Industry Partners.

Organizations may also purchase access to the Knowledge and Insights Center.

Last week, Congress passed the second and final package of bills that make up the federal budget. President Joe Biden signed it over the weekend. This marks the end of a drawn-out period characterized by months of continuing resolutions to bide time for negotiations. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education bill included $225.4 billion, a $200 million reduction compared with FY2023. The bill includes a $1 billion increase for childcare and early learning programs within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Head Start will receive $12 billion and the Child Care and Development Block Grant will receive almost $9 billion, a 9% increase over last year.

Other highlights include an $18 million increase for the 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline and $4.6 billion for substance use prevention and treatment programs. Title I-A grants and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs saw $20 million increases and school districts will receive $160 million to fund school-based mental health professionals. Finally, 12,000 Afghans will receive Special Immigrant Visas. With the two packages combined, defense spending equaled $886 billion, a 3% increase from FY2023, and nondefense spending totaled $773 billion, which is even with last year.

Sources: NPR and Senate Appropriations Committee

Administration Bolsters Patient-Focused Primary Care Model

The Biden-Harris administration has launched a new initiative to enhance investments in patient-focused primary care. Through the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Primary Care (PC) Flex Model, primary care providers within eligible ACOs will deliver innovative, team-based care to Medicare beneficiaries. This model, administered by HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), provides ACOs with a one-time advanced shared-savings payment as well as monthly prospective primary care payments. By equipping ACOs with resources and flexibility, it aims to cover formation and administrative costs to ensure optimal care provision. This initiative reflects the CMS commitment to fortifying the primary care system and promoting competition in healthcare.

By incorporating health equity considerations and incentivizing team-based care, the new model strives to address disparities. Implemented within the Medicare Shared Savings Program, it focuses on low revenue ACOs, aiming to improve efficiency and quality. The ACO PC Flex Model, a five-year voluntary initiative, will commence Jan. 1, 2025, with about 130 ACOs planned for participation.

New Executive Order on Women’s Health Research

President Joe Biden has issued an executive order aimed at bolstering women’s health research. This initiative, as part of a broader effort to address longstanding disparities, emphasizes the administration’s commitment to economic empowerment for women. Key provisions of the order include directing federal agencies like the National Science Foundation and HHS to explore the use of artificial intelligence in advancing women’s health research. It also mandates the expansion of data collection on women’s midlife health and prioritizes investments in menopause-related research.

Historically, women’s health research has faced disparities in funding and representation in clinical trials. To address this, the White House has proposed a $12 billion research fund for women’s health at the National Institute of Health as well as the establishment of a national network of women’s research centers. The order also focuses on menopause research, instructing the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to study and improve treatment for women in the military and veterans. This initiative underscores the administration’s commitment to addressing all diseases affecting women and aims to provide comprehensive support for women’s health and well-being.

Hearing on the Social Security Administration

The Senate Special Committee on Aging hosted a hearing titled “Keeping Our Promise to Older Adults and People with Disabilities: The Status of Social Security Today,” featuring Martin O’Malley, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA). O’Malley opened by saying the SSA faces significant challenges due to increased demand for services coupled with decreased staffing levels. After a FY 2018-2021 budget freeze, a $785 million funding increase in FY 2023 helped rebuild staff levels. However, due to a continuing resolution in FY 2024, hiring stopped, leading to a staffing decline and potential all-time low of around 55,000 staff.

Despite the lack of sufficient funding, O’Malley said the SSA has prioritized addressing challenges in service delivery. Through extensive engagement with employees and stakeholders nationwide via town halls and field visits, they gathered insights and ideas. By implementing quick fixes and long-term strategies such as technology upgrades and streamlined processes, SSA aims to improve both employee and customer experiences through reduced wait times and enhanced efficiency. Additionally, plans for increased onsite presence and automated data exchange demonstrate a commitment to innovation and responsiveness to feedback, ultimately enhancing the agency’s ability to serve the public effectively.

O’Malley emphasized that President Biden’s FY 2025 Budget proposal for SSA highlights the urgent need for increased funding to address staffing shortages and improve customer service. With a requested budget of $15.4 billion, the agency aims to restore staffing levels, reduce wait times for services such as the National 800 Number, and process more disability claims promptly. Approval of the budget would enable significant improvements in staffing, service delivery, and backlog reduction efforts, ultimately benefiting millions of beneficiaries.

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

We are pleased to announce Social Current’s strategic plan priorities and goals for 2024-2026. Guided by our mission, vision, and values, the plan is a culmination of months of planning that included meaningful engagement of key stakeholders including board, staff, and network organizations. The process focused on the identification of and building on strengths, while also identifying potential challenges and opportunities to create a realistic strategic plan to support our organization in being nimble and responsive in today’s fast-changing environment.

From 2024 to 2026, our four core strategic priorities are focused on:

Learn more about the process as well as our strategic priorities and goals.

In a fiery State of the Union speech on Thursday night, President Joe Biden defended his record and laid out his vision for the future. While he tackled major issues in the news, such as immigration, foreign policy, and crime, he also dedicated substantial time to issues like health care, education, and housing.

President Biden highlighted progress in implementing Medicare drug price negotiations, fulfilling a longstanding Democratic ambition enshrined in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). With ongoing negotiations for 10 drugs, Biden emphasized potential cost reductions for seniors and positive impacts on the federal budget. He called for an ambitious expansion to 500 drug price negotiations over the next decade. He praised other provisions in the IRA like capping insulin prices at $35 as well as limiting Medicare out-of-pocket drug expenses to $2,000, and he urged Congress to extend these measures.

President Biden also outlined his administration’s education priorities, focusing on raising teacher pay, bolstering early childhood education, and expanding tutoring and career readiness programs. The agenda aims to address chronic absenteeism, promote universal pre-kindergarten, and alleviate student debt through initiatives such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. According to the administration, in the last three years, 800,000 people qualified for the PSLF program.

In the speech, President Biden revealed new housing policy initiatives, proposing tax credits to support first-time homebuyers and incentivize home sellers. The plan includes a $5,000 per year credit for middle-class first-time buyers for two years, effectively reducing mortgage rates by over 1.5 percentage points. Additionally, the president proposed a one-year credit of up to $10,000 for selling starter homes below the county median price to stimulate activity in the sluggish housing market.

Sources: KFF Health News, Washington Post, and Education Week.

Administration Proposes New Rule on Child Care Subsidies

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has introduced a new rule aimed at lowering child care costs and enhancing options for families receiving subsidies. This rule, which is in line with President Biden’s April 2023 executive order on increasing access to high-quality care and supporting caregivers, makes crucial updates to the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), the nation’s primary funding source for child care affordability and quality improvement. Key provisions of the rule include capping family child care payments at 7% of household income, expanding child care choices, ensuring timely payments to providers, and simplifying application processes for families. By implementing these changes, HHS estimates around 100,000 children will benefit from reduced child care expenses. In separate statements, Vice President Kamala Harris and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra emphasized the administration’s commitment to affordable child care, highlighting the importance of these measures in supporting working families and child care providers alike.

WIC Gets More Funding, Child Tax Credit Expansion Still in Limbo

On March 6, aiming to prevent a government shutdown before the Friday deadline, the House of Representatives passed a $460 billion spending package to fund half of federal agencies. Due to opposition from some House Republicans, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) had to use an unusual process which required a two thirds majority to pass the bill. The package passed 339-85. The Senate also passed the bill and President Biden signed it into law on Saturday. The bill incorporated key Democratic priorities, including a $1 billion increase to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), additionally staving off attempts to limit the purchase of certain items within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

This agreement averts an immediate shutdown and ensures government operations continue. However, the new deadline is March 22 and challenges remain in reconciling differences over contentious issues within remaining spending bills. For example, Sen. Mike Crapo has expressed strong opposition to a $78 billion tax bill that would expand the child tax credit. Crapo criticized proposed changes to the Child Tax Credit, expressing concerns over potential implications for workforce participation and describing the bill as a shift from family tax relief to government subsidy. Amidst these debates, the path forward in the Senate remains uncertain, highlighting ongoing challenges in reaching bipartisan consensus on critical fiscal matters.

McConnell To Step Down as Senate Leader

Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the longest-serving Senate leader, announced his plans to leave the position in November, marking the end of an era in American politics. McConnell, age 82, revealed his decision in the Senate chamber, reflecting on his journey from obscurity to leadership. His resignation marks a significant ideological shift within the Republican Party, transitioning from traditional conservatism in the style of Ronald Reagan to the populism of Donald Trump.

McConnell emphasized he plans to complete his Senate term, which extends until January 2027. His decision came amid mounting pressure from within his party, particularly from the faction aligned with Trump.

Notably, McConnell’s relationship with Trump soured after the 2020 election, culminating in McConnell’s blame of Trump for the Capitol riot. Despite criticism from within his party, McConnell remained steadfast in his convictions.

Throughout his tenure, McConnell wielded considerable influence, reshaping the federal judiciary and championing conservative policies. Despite his polarizing reputation, McConnell leaves a lasting legacy in the Senate, characterized by his strategic acumen and dedication to his party.

Looking ahead, McConnell acknowledged the need for new leadership in the Senate, signaling a generational shift. While his departure is the end of an era, McConnell remains dedicated to his role.

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

Social Current, a leading advocate for the social sector, has announced the release of its 2024 Policy Priorities, which represent key areas of focus from the 2022-2024 Federal Public Policy Agenda for the year. This document provides a strategic roadmap aimed at enhancing the effectiveness, resilience, and impact of human and social service organizations across the U.S.

As the social sector faces evolving challenges and opportunities, Social Current’s priorities for the year hone in on government contracting reform, government grantmaking reform, and bolstering the overall health of the social sector.

2024 Policy Priorities Highlights

“This year marks a pivotal moment for our organization as we intensify our advocacy and strategic efforts,” stated Blair Abelle-Kiser, senior director of government affairs. “Through championing significant legislative reforms and advocating for systemic improvements, we are committed to fostering a more supportive, innovative, and resilient environment for human and social service organizations. Our collective endeavors will strengthen the operational capacities of these organizations and magnify their impact on communities nationwide.”

“While representing our key areas of focus, Social Current will continue to advance and collaborate on advocacy efforts that support the organizations in our network and the sector,” said Jody Levison-Johnson, president and CEO.

The 2024 Policy Priorities document is a testament to Social Current’s commitment to leading the charge for meaningful change in the social sector. By addressing these key areas, Social Current aims to ensure that human and social service organizations continue to be powerful forces for positive change in society.

Advocacy Amplified Training and Hill Day
Build your skills and confidence to advocate for your organization and communities by participating in Social Current’s upcoming public policy and advocacy training and Hill Day, June 11-13 in Washington, D.C. The two-day training will culminate in the Hill Day event, where participants will meet with their legislators. New and seasoned advocates are encouraged to participate. Social Current will handle all the meeting logistics, so you can focus on connecting with your elected officials.

Through COA Accreditation, a service of Social Current, we seek to empower organizations to implement best practice standards to improve service delivery and achieve better outcomes for individuals and communities. COA Accreditation provides a framework to help organizations manage resources, incorporate best practices, and strive for continuous improvement.

We believe there is rich expertise in our field, so we ground the COA Accreditation process in our human and social services community. Our volunteer peer reviewers conduct our site visits and finalize accreditation decisions.

We are proud to spotlight the latest Volunteer of the Quarter: Tiffany Rexrode.

About Tiffany Rexrode

Tiffany graduated from Shepherd College in 2000 with a bachelor’s in social work. In 2004, she completed her master’s in social work from the University of Maryland. She has worked in public child welfare since 2000 within two state systems, West Virginia and Maryland. She has served in many roles within public child welfare, currently as the director of the Washington County Department of Social Services (WCDSS). She also teaches as an adjunct instructor for Shepherd University and Salisbury University. She first learned about COA Accreditation during her own agency’s accreditation cycle.

Q&A

What three traits define you?

I am driven, innovative, and organized.

What are your strongest beliefs about the value of COA Accreditation?

Because the standards are always adapting, COA Accreditation helps agencies to stay relevant with best practices.

What advice would you give someone interested in being a COA Accreditation volunteer?

This is a great opportunity to learn field driven best practices, visit new and interesting places, and meet wonderful colleagues – some of which become lifelong friends.

Share a memorable place, person, or experience from a site visit.

I have several treasured memories from site visits. I love to visit new places around the country. I loved South Dakota, Oregon, the Gateway Arch, and spending time in Nashville. There is always opportunity to have a nice time with team members too: random trivia nights, musical BINGO, the Grand Ole Opry, an awareness walk “A Mile in her Shoes,” escape rooms, or exploring local restaurants. Some of my best travel memories have been made on COA reviews.

What excites, surprises, and/or challenges you the most about the work you do as a COA Accreditation volunteer?

In over 40 reviews, I have always left with a new idea, a new consideration, a new philosophy, or a new opportunity that has influenced my practice. I have been able to implement several ideas in my own agency.

Learn more about how to become a peer review volunteer and apply online.

Lawmakers are on the verge of finalizing a significant deal to break the funding gridlock in Congress before a partial government shutdown on March 2. Discussions center around a potential arrangement in which a pilot program narrowing food options for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries would be launched in return for increased funding for other nutritional programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Championed by Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture Andy Harris (R-Md.), the proposed pact includes the SNAP-choice pilot program within the Agriculture-Food and Drug Administration spending bill. The bill bolsters WIC, which faces an imminent funding shortfall.

The pilot initiative, designed to encourage healthier dietary decisions, has ignited controversy within nutrition advocacy circles as well as the food industry. Despite these ongoing disputes and reservations, the increased funding allocations for a range of nutritional programs signals a comprehensive endeavor to tackle funding challenges and strengthen food assistance initiatives. There is opposition from some House Democrats who advocate for disentangling the SNAP-choice initiative from bipartisan WIC funding endeavors; however, the deal has already been elevated to congressional leaders who, reportedly, will finalize it within days.

New HHS Study Highlights Positive Fiscal Impact of Refugees and Asylees

A recent comprehensive study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) reveals the substantial positive fiscal impact of refugees and asylees on the American economy from 2005 to 2019. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said, “This historic federal study is important data-driven evidence demonstrating that over time, refugees, asylees, and their immediate families have made significant positive fiscal contributions to our country.”

The study underscores the notable contributions made by refugees and asylees to both the U.S. government and society. Key findings indicate, during the 15-year period, refugees and asylees had a positive net fiscal impact of nearly $124 billion, with substantial contributions to government revenue totaling $581 billion. While the study acknowledges the initial costs associated with governmental expenditures on refugees and asylees, it emphasizes the long-term positive cumulative effects on government budgets. According to ASPE, the report helps the public to understand the positive financial return on assistance to refugees and asylees.

HUD Releases Update to Equity Action Plan

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) unveiled the 2023 update to its Equity Action Plan, in line with the Biden-Harris Administration’s overarching equity agenda. In a statement, Secretary Marcia L. Fudge emphasized HUD’s dedication to rectifying historical disparities, particularly affecting marginalized groups like Black, Brown, and low-income individuals. HUD’s Equity Action Plan aims to embed equity into all facets of its operations, echoing the administration’s directive to prioritize racial equity.

Since its initial release in 2022, HUD has facilitated homeownership for approximately a quarter of a million Black individuals through Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgages. Additionally, HUD has advanced initiatives such as finalizing rules on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) to address housing inequality as well as reinstating the Discriminatory Effects Rule to combat systemic housing discrimination. The agency has also expanded access to housing counseling and provided $10 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for housing and community development research. Moreover, HUD allocated $30 million to fair housing organizations and implemented measures to provide second chances for individuals with criminal records in public housing.

Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on Drug Prices

On Feb. 8, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hosted a hearing entitled, “Why Does the United States Pay, by Far, the Highest Prices in the World for Prescription Drugs?” The first panel was made up of CEOs from three major pharmaceutical companies: Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Bristol Myers Squibb. The CEOs highlighted their companies’ contributions to healthcare innovation and pressed lawmakers to support policies that encourage innovation, price transparency, and health equity while avoiding policies like drug price controls.

The second panel of experts began with Peter Maybarduk of Public Citizen, who underscored the financial obstacles to medication access, particularly for vulnerable populations, and criticized pharmaceutical companies for exploiting their market power through patent abuse. He acknowledged recent efforts by the Biden administration but urged further reforms to alleviate the crisis, such as targeting practices of specific companies.

Tahir Amin from Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge argued the rampant use of patent thickets to extend market monopolies in the pharmaceutical industry is a widespread issue. He suggested Congress redefine what qualifies as a patent-worthy invention, as many patents are granted for trivial modifications rather than truly innovative breakthroughs. Darius Lakdawalla of the University of Southern California Schaeffer Center emphasized the need to balance medical innovation with affordability, cautioning against blunt price controls and advocating for policies that align drug prices with their value to stimulate beneficial innovation. He suggested legislation promoting transparency and affordable insurance coverage can help address accessibility issues for American families.

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

Social Current is pleased to announce that CCNY, Inc. has signed on to become a Platinum Strategic Industry Partner for 2024. Strategic Industry Partners play an important role in helping Social Current bring together leaders from across our network of more than 1,800 human and social service organizations to collaborate, innovate, and solve problems. Social Current intentionally nurtures relationship building between our partners, organizations, and professionals to offer solutions as we work toward a stronger and more viable social sector.

CCNY, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Buffalo, New York, provides a comprehensive spectrum of services that range from program evaluation and data analytics to quality improvement and training. A recognized leader in the industry when it comes to improving service delivery in human services, they help organizations understand how to achieve their mission and drive positive change. Their expertise supports organizations in their goal to become data-driven organizations focused on increasing their capacity with utilization focused tools to improve positive outcomes.

“Building a stronger, more collaborative social service network means it is more critical than ever to foster connections and strategic partnerships across our sector,” commented Jody Levison-Johnson, president and CEO of Social Current. “As our Platinum Strategic Industry Partner, CCNY, Inc., brings a strong expertise on how organizations can better fulfill their mission while still achieving their bottom line. We are pleased to welcome them as Social Current’s first platinum partner for 2024.”

“The shared commitment to service excellence through continuous quality improvement is a focus that CCNY shares with Social Current and all its network organizations,” said Heidi Milch, Executive Director of CCNY. “When it comes to data-driven quality improvement this group is past the question of should we, and on to the question of how will we, which makes the Platinum Partnership the perfect avenue for CCNY to support network organizations with the tools that create capacity for lasting success.”

Social Current offers Platinum, Gold, and Silver Strategic Industry Partnerships that can help organizations foster and nurture connections and relationships across the social sector with a goal of enhancing our collective success and nationwide impact. Through Social Current’s partnership program, partners reach our network through annual meetings, networking events, discussion forums, learning series, thought leadership development opportunities, and more. For more information on Strategic Industry Partner opportunities, please contact Marisa Collins, director of strategic partnerships and partner communications.


About CCNY, Inc.
There’s always a human side to analytics, and that’s where CCNY comes in. With consultative services that encompass data collection, evaluation, analytics, predictive modeling, and quality improvement; it’s our job to facilitate data-driven decision making for those who work in health and human services. CCNY takes a utilization focused approach that ensures the work we do actually gets used.

On Jan. 31, the House of Representatives passed (357 to 70) a significant $78 billion bill which expands the child tax credit and reinstates certain business tax breaks. Republican Rep. Jason Smith, the main sponsor in the House, praised the bill as beneficial for growth and employment. It enlarges the child tax credit, though at a reduced level compared to the pandemic period, and revives business tax breaks until 2025. Additionally, it enhances tax benefits for low-income housing and disaster victims. The package of tax breaks is paid for by curbing the pandemic-era employee retention tax credit. Lawmakers see the bill as a positive bipartisan achievement amidst a divisive political climate.

Despite overwhelming approval in the House, the bill faces challenges in the Senate. The main proponent, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), has argued its benefit to families and businesses, and pointed to the bipartisan nature of the bill’s passage in the House. Senate Republicans, however, have reservations, particularly regarding the impact of the expanded child tax credit on parents’ work incentives. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) highlighted a provision that permits parents to collect the larger credit by claiming earnings from previous years, thereby discouraging work, in his eyes. Despite these challenges, the bill is supported by President Biden as well as many senators and could gain momentum in the coming weeks.

HHS Highlights Progress After Two Years of Overdose Prevention Strategy

On Feb. 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) marked the second anniversary of its Overdose Prevention Strategy. From 2019-2021, the United States witnessed alarming increases in overdose death rates. Recent efforts, however, have successfully stabilized this trend. According to the administration, over the last three years the rate of increase in overdose deaths has plummeted by over 90%, with a consistent decline observed almost every month.

The administration argues that significant investments in overdose prevention programs have contributed to these positive outcomes. Key initiatives encompass primary prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services. Such efforts include SAMHSA’s Youth Fentanyl Awareness Prize Challenge, which elicited advice from youth aged 14-18 on best practices for educating young people; the Building Communities of Recovery program, which brings together community resources to support long-term recovery; and telescribing, which has made it easier to access treatment.

Other highlights include naloxone sales, which have surged notably in the past year, signaling wider availability of this life-saving medication. Concurrently, there has been a significant rise in the number of individuals receiving buprenorphine treatment, indicating enhanced access to evidence-based care.

Despite progress, challenges persist as provisional data indicate a persistently high number of overdose deaths. HHS unveiled bold new steps, which include new opioid use disorder treatment rules, aiming to make flexibilities introduced during the pandemic permanent, aligning standards of care with evidence-based practices, and broadening access to interim care with methadone.

Border Bill Introduced and Then Falters in the Senate

Last week, the Senate faced difficulty advancing legislation for aid to U.S. allies after rejecting a bipartisan plan to boost border security. Four months of negotiations, initiated by Republicans wary of increasing aid to Ukraine without linking it to stricter border controls, ended in the plan’s failure, after House Republicans and former President Donald Trump expressed opposition to the proposal. Like many immigration and border proposals in the past, the way forward is uncertain with Congress divided over border security measures in an election year.

In its current form, the proposal would introduce new emergency measures that greatly limit access across the border, triggered when crossings exceed an average of 5,000 a day over the course of a week or 8,500 in one day. Under these measures, asylum seekers would have to apply at designated ports of entry, scheduling appointments via a government app. Asylum officers from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, previously U.S. immigration judges, would decide on asylum cases at the border. Successful applicants would need to demonstrate they could not relocate within their country to avoid persecution. Asylum seekers who pass initial screenings would immediately qualify for work permits, while others could appeal to an asylum review board. The proposal also would expand the use of Alternatives to Detention for migrants awaiting asylum case decisions, such as ankle monitors and cell phones for check-ins with authorities.

HUD Releases New Factsheet on Agency Support for Black People

In a newly released factsheet, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), under the leadership of Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, outlined several initiatives undertaken to support Black communities in homeownership, economic empowerment, and housing stability. Notably, HUD broke down systemic barriers to homeownership, facilitating approximately 250,000 Black Americans in purchasing homes with an FHA mortgage since 2021. Additionally, foreclosure prevention measures implemented during the pandemic helped 160,000 Black homeowners retain their homes amidst financial challenges. HUD expanded access to housing counseling, invested in Black-owned, small, disadvantaged businesses, and awarded over $10 million to historically Black colleges and universities for wealth building and housing research.

Efforts to combat racial discrimination in housing continue with HUD working to eliminate bias in appraisals and promote fair housing practices. Furthermore, HUD expanded rental assistance programs, including emergency housing vouchers targeting homelessness, with a significant portion benefiting Black households. Finally, the Secretary oversaw efforts to review HUD regulations, policies, and guidance that discriminate against people with past criminal records. These initiatives demonstrate HUD’s commitment to advancing equity, homeownership, and housing stability for Black communities under Secretary Fudge’s leadership.

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

Organizations will be most effective in advancing their equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) journey when they build an organizational culture that deeply embeds these precepts at multiple levels. That’s why Social Current focuses on solutions for organizational change and excellence and uses a person–organization–system approach to advancing equity, opportunity, and impact.

Black History Month offers an opportunity to share some of our staff’s recent favorite resources for organizational change and leadership that can improve, not inhibit, the potential of BIPOC staff at community-based organizations. See the resource list below with information and data; guidance, tools, and templates; and topic collections with more resources exclusively for Impact Partners in the Social Current network.

Check out additional Social Current opportunities that help community-based organizations commit to authentic and sustainable EDI work that helps all people to thrive, too:

Resources

Information and Data

Where Employees Think Companies’ EDI Efforts Are Failing (Harvard Business Review) Two recent surveys from Gallup reveal stark differences in how well employees and HR leaders say their organizations are doing when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Race to Lead Revisited: Obstacles and Opportunities in Addressing the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap (Building Movement Project) New insights to the groundbreaking survey and report that presented findings from a 2019 survey of more than 5,000 nonprofit staff on their experiences of race and leadership.

The Psychological Safety of Black Employees (WorkingWell Daily) How organizations can create safer workplaces for Black employees.

The Currency of Human Resources Is Trust (Stanford Social Innovation Review) HR management, if not done through an explicit lens of racial and gender justice, perpetuates structural biases. That said, HR professionals are in an optimal position, through formal and informal roles and practices, to begin to dismantle systemic racial and gender barriers.

Guidance, Tools, and Templates

Harvard Implicit Association Test (Project Implicit) This test looks at the connections between concepts to determine a person’s unconscious biases. The results are often surprising, but our hidden biases are powerful.

Race Equity Cycle Pulse Check (Equity in the Center) Learn how an organization rates on transforming organizational culture, practice, and process to narrow (and eventually eliminate) race-based disparities in measurable outcomes (composition, compensation, promotion, retention, staff engagement, staff performance, etc.).

Black History Month at Work – Important or Tokenistic? (EW Group) How the best organizations engage with Black History Month, the challenges from BHM, and suggested activities during BHM.

Five Questions for Every Organization During Black History Month (Forbes Equity Quotient) Questions that every organization should ask itself to be more inclusive of the Black community in their year-round operations.

Empowering Black Women In The Workplace (Forbes) Part of uplifting Black women is acknowledging harmful tropes and actively working to see them as individuals, not walking stereotypes.

Leadership Development Programs Need an Upgrade: Five Ways to Advance Racial Equity (The Center for Effective Philanthropy) Promoting, retaining, and supporting BIPOC leadership within nonprofits is critical for driving systemic change. Funders can consider how they might tailor and incorporate these into their own approaches to supporting leadership.

Impact Partner Exclusive

Organizations that are Social Current Impact Partners have access to these library resource collections in the Knowledge and Insights Center. To access these collections, log in to the Hub or create an account. Learn more about Impact Partnerships online.

Commitment to Advancing Equity Collection: This collection helps community-based organizations tackle issues that cause and sustain inequity and authentically and collaboratively reduce the social, economic, political, and cultural exclusion of underrepresented and marginalized communities.

Health and Mental Well-Being: This collection focuses on the health and mental well-being of children, youth, and adults—including the optimization of formal and informal supports, asset-building, and resilience at the individual and community levels—and what systemic change is necessary to ensure all people can achieve their full potential.