Sherri Daniels’ Testimony on Bill 25-55

July 12, 2023

Sherri Daniels
Civic Leader
Education Reform Now DC

DC Council, Committee of the Whole
Public Hearing:
Bill 25-55, “Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023”

Honorable Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole, greetings. My name is Sherri Daniels, I am a proud resident of Ward 8 with a master’s degree in psychology, a community caseworker, and a prominent civic leader for Education Reform Now DC. As someone who works at the forefront of providing mental health services to DC residents, I am here today to wholeheartedly support the establishment of a Master of Social Work degree program at the University of the District of Columbia. I was pleased to testify¹ in support of this legislation in April, and I’d like to expand upon the previous testimony of Minetre Martin and delve deeper into the specifics of implementing the solutions discussed.

Minetre’s testimony accurately drew attention to the urgent mental health needs of our DC youth, especially in marginalized communities, and I am intimately familiar with this issue through my daily work as a community caseworker. The establishment of a Master of Social Work degree program at the University of the District of Columbia, as proposed in this bill, offers a direct response to these needs. However, the successful implementation and impact of this program will depend heavily on the strategic decisions we make now. To expand on the essential aspects Minetre touched upon I offer the following specific recommendations:

Collaborate with entities such as the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Psychological Association
Minetre suggested the importance of aligning with distinguished institutions such as the National Institute of Mental Health as well as local hospitals and organizations. To amplify the program’s reputation and facilitate enriched learning experiences, the program could develop a “Learning Partners” initiative where each semester, a group of students is paired with a partner organization for research projects or practicum experience. This model not only provides students with unique learning opportunities but also helps institutions gain fresh perspectives from the upcoming generation of social workers.

Partner with philanthropic organizations and foundations in DC to establish scholarships, sponsorships, or internships.
Through the scholarship program, UDC could support practical training opportunities. Internships or fieldwork experiences are essential components in the education of social
workers, and financial support for these experiences would significantly aid students. Additionally, UDC could leverage technology and innovation in its teaching methodologies. In
this digital age, there are myriad tech-based tools that can revolutionize the teaching of social work. For instance, incorporating simulation software and AI programs can offer students the opportunity to practice skills in a risk-free environment before working with actual clients and could make the program more future-ready.

Implement a DC-centered curriculum to address the unique challenges.
The program should engage with local community health centers, schools, and the Department of Behavioral Health to develop a comprehensive understanding of our community’s unique needs. By introducing courses or specializations that focus on DC’s specific demographic needs, we can ensure our graduates are well-equipped to serve their community effectively.

Develop and execute a comprehensive public awareness campaign to ensure potential beneficiaries are informed about this program.
Develop and execute a comprehensive public awareness campaign to market this program to Local Educational Agencies LEAs, so counselors are aware and can work to intentionally build out career pathways in these fields.

This Master of Social Work degree program is more than a course of study; it is a commitment to the future well-being of the District of Columbia. By investing in the program and its graduates, we’re investing in our community and shared future.

Thank you for your time, and I hope you will give due consideration to our proposals and the potential they have to enrich our District’s education landscape and uplift our community.


DFER Testimony Testimony