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 Blog Post

Social Work Spotlight: Marlinda Smith

March 14, 2023 12:30 PM

PA Coat of Arms

How does being a social worker influence your current work?

As a licensed clinical social worker and board-certified diplomat with more than 38 years of experience working in the field, I value the needs and understanding of the people we serve and the coordination of the DHS system. As a social worker, I function and operate at both the micro and macro levels. I support individuals and teams directly with diversion from state center and state hospital admissions, and Iam a key staff member for our statewide capacity building institute, which is aimed at cross-system, cross-discipline professional capacity building to serve people with co-occurring mental health issues and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

What do you want the public to know about social work and DHS?

It is a privilege to work for DHS. I speak with graduate school students at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work to advocate the exploration of social work in state jobs. Here are the points I reinforce:

  1. Social work allows you to work throughout the lifespan, and at DHS you have opportunities to do so, until you find your niche.
  2. The experience is one you will not find any where else, as you are able to explore being in the field with your clients as well as leadership/administration positions.
  3. The opportunities are endless.
  4. You learn the reasonings behind policy and the federal support of programs and services.
  5. Networking opportunities happen regularly with other agencies and offices.
  6. You are encouraged to explore your career path and additional licensing and clinical supervision.
  7. Social workers are treated like professionals.

How are you advocating for social workers and/or their "clients"?

It is to me, an ethical responsibility and is exclusive to working within DHS to serve the individual/ client. I offer support in team meetings and consultations with the individual/client to hear and ensure their needs for services and their rights are respected. My role in capacity building within the system is to support my peers and other professional entities to access and understand appropriate services and supports for individual with mental health issues and intellectual disabled adults and autism.

What impact do social workers have in the community and in an individual's life?

To me, I understand the discrimination and stigma that can impact a person's life and ability to thrive with mental illness and intellectual/ developmental disability and autism.  Personally, I had a family member with a serious, persistent mental illness and worked in OMHSAS for twelve years at a state hospital.  I have worked in ODP for eleven years with a population that has a life-long disability and needs specialized services as well.    It is an important aspect of my job in mental health and intellectual developmental disabilities   for the community and state facilities to ensure all people have access to needed services and recovery opportunities.  Thus, working with dual diagnoses bridges the job to advocate, develop, strengthen and communicate the services and needs within the community and in an individual's life.

What motivates you to do the work you do?

I love my work. I continue to learn each day and be challenged. Having worked in the real world, I appreciate all the state offers as an employer and the support given by administration/ leadership.

I worked throughout the United States as a Navy wife in hospital and psychiatric settings.  When I was in graduate school at the University of Georgia, I had the opportunity to work at a state children's ICF/IDD 60 bed unit.  Research and behavioral support were essential in working there and learned a lot. It blended psychiatric diagnoses and kids with autism and or intellectual developmental disabilities. Although I have worked in the "real world" as a social worker at hospital and psychiatric settings, as well as private practice, my current position brings me full circle.  It remains the current individual with complex needs that we, as a DHS employee and social worker remain our focus for capacity building and supports in the community.  What a fun job I have!!!