Social Welfare Professor David Cohen provided context and history in a CNN report assessing the veracity of President Trump’s comments linking gun violence to the closure of mental health facilities. “They closed so many — like 92% — of the mental institutions around this country over the years, for budgetary reasons,” Trump said. Cohen clarified that, since the mid-1950s, about half of the nation’s psychiatric facilities have closed and the number of residents in state mental hospitals has fallen from about 550,000 to about 100,000 today. The facilities closed in an effort to “deinstitutionalize” the mentally ill by placing them in less restrictive environments — not because of budget cutbacks, he added. But many patients were left with nowhere to go. “Society after World War II discovered a new passion to solve social problems and include the excluded, and all sorts of institutions — including orphanages, institutions for mentally retarded persons, homes for unwed mothers, youth detention centers, etc. — were phased out, with their residents often in effect kicked out from where they had lived for years,” Cohen said.
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Professor Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare, recently co-authored an article in Academic Pediatrics investigating the relationship between child incarceration and subsequent adult health outcomes. The United States is the world leader in youth incarceration, and research by Abrams and co-principal investigator Elizabeth Barnert, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, aimed to bridge the data gap on repercussions from child incarceration. The study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to compare adult health outcomes in individuals grouped by age of first incarceration. The study compared individuals first incarcerated before age 14 with those first incarcerated at 15-17 years old, 18-20 years old and 21-24 years old. Among the adult health outcomes analyzed were physical health, such as mobility limitations, and mental health, including depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts. After controlling for sociodemographic and ecological factors, the study found that “child incarceration independently predicted adult mobility limitations, adult depression and adult suicidal thoughts,” confirming the link between younger age at first incarceration and worse adult health. The research also identified sociodemographic disparities in child incarceration, finding that “individuals first incarcerated as children were disproportionately of color, more likely to be from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and more likely to have been raised in a single-parent household.” The findings will likely have repercussions in the health arena. The report concluded, “Child incarceration displays even wider sociodemographic disparities than incarceration generally and is associated with even worse adult physical and mental health outcomes.”
In a Team Human podcast hosted by Douglas Rushkoff, Professor of Urban Planning and Social Welfare Ananya Roy discussed poverty and social justice from a global perspective. Roy explained how the “visible forms of poverty and inequality” in her childhood “shaped [her] interests in the study of cities and the manifestation of social inequality.” Roy discussed the relationships and discrepancies between poverty in the United States compared to developing countries in the global south, explaining that “poverty in many other parts of the world is not necessarily associated with political disenfranchisement in the ways in which it is in the United States.” Roy discussed spaces of mobilization and political power, noting that while “the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house, the master’s tools can certainly occupy the master house.” Roy concluded, “As Americans, we have an ethical and political responsibility to address the policies that then produce poverty around the world and in the United States as well.”
The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs is once again among the top 15 public affairs schools in the nation as ranked by the latest U.S. News and World Report ratings released March 12, 2019. The School retained the No. 14 (tied) spot in the ratings while moving up to No. 13 (tied) in the social work category. “I am extremely pleased that Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin has moved up in rankings to 13 in the nation as rated by our esteemed peers,” said Laura Abrams, professor of social welfare and chair. “We will continue to work to educate the most-prepared social workers at all levels of practice in our pursuit of equity and social justice.” The School — with graduate departments in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning, and a new undergraduate major in Public Affairs — also received high marks for subcategories that include health policy and management (No. 12) and urban policy (No. 9). A number of UCLA professional schools and programs also were named among top schools in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools 2020” guidebook, which will be available in the spring. According to the publication, yearly graduate program rankings are based on experts’ opinions about program excellence and on statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research and students. Research for the publication included surveys conducted in fall 2018 and early 2019 of more than 2,000 graduate programs and more than 22,000 academics and professionals in the disciplines.
As a young man growing up in a disadvantaged community, Victor Rios was a repeated school dropout, and was involved in drugs, crime and gang activity. Today, he holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley and is a tenured professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara. Rios’ inspirational story is shown in the documentary “The Pushouts,” which was presented at the Fowler Museum’s Lenart Auditorium on Jan. 24. Following the screening, which was co-sponsored by UCLA Luskin, Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millan moderated a Q&A with many of the people featured in the film. They included a group of students in the Yo! Watts high school program, which gives disadvantaged youth the tools, including mentors like Rios, that they need to find success. Victims of what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline, these students are labeled “dropouts.” The documentary argues that they should instead be called “pushouts,” since they are often pushed from an educational system that is often geared against them. “The Pushouts” is trying to begin a dialogue about why this is happening and what can be done about it. As Rios said during the Q&A, “There’s a conversation that’s being had around the nation, but this film is just one of the conversation starters.” — Jackson Belway
Laura Wray-Lake, left, and Jason Anthony Plumber are among the many from UCLA Luskin presenting at the SSWR conference. Photos by Laura Abrams
A contingent of 20 faculty and doctoral students from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs are representing the School at the 2019 Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) Conference Jan. 16-20 in San Francisco. Research is presented during symposia, workshops, roundtable discussions, and paper and poster presentations at the annual conference, which in 2019 is dedicated to ending gender-based, family and community violence. “We’re excited to see so many of our faculty and Ph.D. students presenting,” said Laura Abrams, professor and chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare. The presentations cover a broad spectrum of topics within social work and research, including mental illness, gerontology, child welfare, adolescence and parenting, racial and ethnic minorities, and civic engagement. Featured UCLA Luskin Social Welfare faculty are Abrams, David Cohen, Ian Holloway, Aurora Jackson, Leyla Karimli, Ayako Miyashita Ochoa, Amy Ritterbusch, Latoya Small, Carlos Santos and Laura Wray-Lake. Presenting doctoral students from UCLA Luskin are Skye Allmang, Donte Boyd, Ryan Dougherty, Shannon Dunlap, Jianchao Lai, Gi Lee, Carol A. Leung, Jason Anthony Plummer, Alex Recault and Rachel Wells. Holloway, associate professor of social welfare, remarked, “We are very proud of our doctoral students presenting at SSWR this year. They are advancing social welfare scholarship and representing UCLA well at our premier social work research conference.”
The Master of Social Welfare (MSW) at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has been named the No. 1 program of its kind in California for 2019-20 by HumanServicesEdu.org, an online resource for information on education, practice and employment in the human service fields. The organization describes the MSW as a comprehensive two-year program, selected from among California schools accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), that offers the highest level of training, designed to produce the next generation of well-equipped leaders in social work and to help advance the overall knowledge base of social work policy and practice. In a news release announcing the designation, HumanServicesEdu.org noted, “When we got to the UCLA Luskin Master of Social Welfare, it was clear we had a winner. With a decided focus on experiential learning, valuable opportunities to study abroad, and a world-class faculty with lots of front-line experience, UCLA Luskin offers students something they just won’t find anywhere else.” UCLA Luskin’s MSW program was among hundreds of schools across the United States assessed by the organization in compiling a list of the best programs for each state, according to Kelly Simpson, senior editor for HumanServicesEdu.org. UCLA Luskin also was recognized for offering hands-on experience in field work placements, as well as opportunities to participate in advanced research and projects, along with concurrent degrees available with other top UCLA programs including Asian American Studies, Law, Public Health and the Master of Public Policy program at UCLA Luskin.
Professor Mark S. Kaplan spoke about research related to suicide among military veterans and other at-risk populations. Photo by Mary Braswell
Experts on suicide, particularly among veterans, led a wide-ranging conversation about risk factors and effective interventions at an event hosted by UCLA Luskin Social Welfare. Professor Mark S. Kaplan shared insights from his extensive research of at-risk populations with the gathering of students and social workers. “What many vulnerable young veterans returning from places like Afghanistan and Iraq needed more than anything else was not a psychiatrist but a social worker, somebody who could help them with that transition into civilian life, somebody who could help them with their family and their community,” he said. “It was really a challenge of reintegration that mattered most; it wasn’t a psychiatric problem.” The Nov. 6, 2018, panel included Susan Pindack, a social worker with the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System; Sam Coleman, a lecturer at Cal State Long Beach and coordinator of the Veterans for Peace PTSD Working Group; and Carolyn Levitan, director of the crisis line at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services’ Suicide Prevention Center. The panel’s broad experience led to an expansive discussion that touched on Civil War fighters who took their own lives, firearm use among female soldiers, the role of pain management in preventing suicide and the impact of the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.” Students from the Mental Health Caucus at UCLA, one of several event co-sponsors, led a question-and-answer session after the panel presentations. — Mary Braswell
View a Flickr album from the event here.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has named UCLA Luskin Professor of Social Welfare Mark S. Kaplan to a board of experts on the prevention of violence and injuries. Kaplan will serve a four-year term on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reports that 214,000 people die from injury every year in the United States, and millions who survive an injury face lifelong mental, physical and financial problems. The board will advise the federal agencies on a variety of research areas to help set priorities and improve public health. “This is an incredible career achievement,” Social Welfare chair Laura Abrams said of the appointment. Kaplan’s research has focused on understanding suicide risk factors among veterans, seniors and other vulnerable populations. The CDC reports that suicide is one of just three leading causes of death that are on the rise. Members of the Board of Scientific Counselors represent several disciplines and include epidemiologists, statisticians, trauma surgeons, behavioral scientists, health economists, political scientists and criminologists.