Skip to site content

IHS Acknowledges Social Workers Across Indian Country

by Lt. Cmdr. Monique Richards, National Lead, Zero Suicide Initiative, Indian Health Service

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan officially designated March as National Professional Social Work Month. The National Association of Social Workers sponsors the month-long campaign to increase public understanding of the profession while building pride among social workers. This year’s theme, “The Time is Right for Social Work,” highlights how social workers have enriched our society for more than a century and how their services continue be needed today. Currently, there are more than 700,000 social workers nationwide working in various settings, including schools, hospitals, mental health centers, nonprofits, corporations, the military, and in local, state, and federal government.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to especially highlight how social workers, like other health professionals, have worked tirelessly on the frontlines and have remained flexible in providing behavioral health services, handing out masks, organizing COVID-19 test sites, and advocating for underprivileged populations to receive vaccinations.

In recognition of Social Work Month, the Indian Health Service wants to acknowledge and recognize all the social workers across Indian Country for their impactful work and dedication to raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level. This is an excellent opportunity to recognize leaders that have made a positive impact on improving the health and wellbeing of Native people. These social work champions mirror the core values outlined by the National Association of Social Workers: service; social justice; dignity and worth of the person; the importance of human relationships; integrity; and competence. They have worked tirelessly to protect tribal sovereignty and sound the alarm on Native health inequities and disparities.

Lastly, as the social work profession continues to be at the forefront in addressing health disparities and improving the quality of life of all Americans, we encourage everyone to take a moment to celebrate the social work profession, as “The Time is Right for Social Work!”

To learn more about programs and training opportunities led by numerous social workers within the agency, visit the IHS Division of Behavioral Health website.

Lt. Cmdr. Monique Richards, National Lead, Zero Suicide Initiative, Indian Health Service

Lt. Cmdr. Monique Richards is a United States Public Health Service officer who serves as the national lead for the Zero Suicide Initiative at the Indian Health Service. She holds a Master of Social Work from Howard University and is a practicing licensed independent clinical social worker.