GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — March is all about celebrating social workers in all capacities during Social Work Month.
The slogan this year is "Social Workers are Essential," and it couldn’t be more fitting during the pandemic.
Allyson Tafelski, a medical social worker at Spectrum Health’s emergency department at Butterworth Hospital, said, “It’s not glamorous. It’s often we see people on their worst days.”
However, the role is a fulfilling one for her.
She said, “There are certain patients that you just feel like you made a difference that particular day, and they tell you that you did.”
Tafelski wears a lot of different hats, from acting as a liaison between family members and the medical team, to behavioral health and suicide assessments. The last two areas are ones she’s been focusing on a lot more in the time of COVID.
“We are seeing a lot more people who are struggling with depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I feel like we are also seeing probably a little bit more of actual attempts and dealing with people who are just struggling, who maybe didn’t have that problem prior to the pandemic,” Tafelski said.
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Leah Quintanilla, the clinical supervisor of Spectrum’s Ambulatory Behavioral Health Department, is seeing similar issues in the primary care setting too.
She said, “We’ve seen a lot more patients come in with what we call adjustment disorders. So because of the pandemic, being isolated, not being over able to be around family members, ‘I’m not able to work,’ that type of thing or being fearful of getting COVID or a family member getting COVID. Those types of things.”
Quintanilla told FOX 17 that they often connect people to community resources and support patients in crisis, adding that there’s been at least one good thing to come from the pandemic.
“It's opened up the capability for our team to do virtual visits, which is amazing because a lot more patients are able to have access to our services weren’t able to have access before,” she explained.
If one thing is certain during an uncertain time, it’s becoming clear just how essential social work is.
Quintanilla said, “Just recognizing that mental health concerns, behavioral health concerns and those types of things don’t go away when there’s a pandemic, just like health conditions and emergencies don’t go away.”
All Spectrum Health primary care providers do depression screenings during their visits and can connect you with a social worker if you need some help.