State Senator tells social work students they are "beacons of light"

Indiana Sen. Greg Porter looked out at the faces of hundreds of social work students and told them they are "beacons of light," to individuals who need their help.

Porter’s remarks came during the annual social work Legislative Education and Action Day at the Indiana State House on Feb. 27th. The event drew students from the Indiana University School of Social Work as well as other social work programs from around Indiana.

Picture is of IUPUI BSW student Janet Maurice“I think each and every one of you has a covenant,” Porter said. “Not a religious covenant, but a covenant to take care of the people who need your help.”  That’s a role each and every one of you plays, Porter noted. “I’m telling you there are a lot of people out there who are disenchanted with the system. They are disillusioned with what’s happening in their lives. What we have to do is work together and make things better for our people. And that means everyone.”

“You are change agents for the infrastructure for the great State of Indiana,” Porter told the students. “That is who you are. That is what you are going to be. Understand your work has just begun. Don’t get tired. Stay focused, stay strong and stay together. Because you are what makes Indiana the great state that it is.”

LEAD was started in 2000 as a way to promote social justice by facilitating, creating community and legislative environments where social work values are accepted and implemented as well as education participants about the importance of influencing state policy by participating in the electoral process and advocating for statewide action. During the day, which is planned by the Indiana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, students are encouraged to meet with their legislators.

The students heard about a number of initiatives being considered by the Indiana General Assembly from speakers such as Katharine Byers, the BSW Program Director at IUB, who spoke on Medicaid, and Jean Capler, Associate Instructor of Social Work at IUB, who spoke on the Marriage Amendment.

They also heard from Janet Maurice, a BSW student on the IUPUI campus. She explained that when she entered the IU School of Social Work program, like most of her classmates she wanted to help people. “After all, I had been extremely blessed and I wanted to pay it forward.”

Her interest in politics was voting for the candidate that annoyed her the least, Maurice explained. What kind of difference could she make, she wondered. That all changed when I sat in Amy Murphy-Nugen's policy class. “She introduced me to a whole different world of social work and policy making and her enthusiasm woke me up.” For her practicum, Maurice is working at the state house, learning as much as she can by monitoring committee meetings and following bills that affect Hoosiers in general, but those in our state who have the least.

One of the bills she has been watching involves testing people who receive TANF for drug use. If approved, the bill would require aid TANF recipients to take a substance abuse screening inventory to determine if they have a tendency to do drugs, Maurice explained. From the pool of people who were identified as likely to use drugs, people will be randomly selected to be tested for drug use. Anyone who tests positive for drugs is given 30 days to enroll in a drug treatment program, which they must pay for or lose their benefits. The cost of the drug test is deducted from benefits. The person is then tested every 20 to 30 days until they have two consecutive negative test results. If they don’t have two consecutive tests in four months, they will lose their benefits.

Those supporting the legislation argue it is a way to help a person who has a drug problem, Maurice said. But she questioned how helpful it is to just hand a person a list of drug programs. “It doesn’t sound helpful to have unrealistic expectations that someone can kick a drug habit in less than four months or that they can get admitted to a drug program in less than 30 days.” And she asked, how taking a child’s support away help in any way?

Maurice called upon the students to speak up against the bill. “We will not stand for policy that demeans our poorest of poor residents or that hurts our children.”

Press Release Contact:
Rob Schneider
(317) 278-0303