Social Worker Amanda Vasquez
The last week of the 2018 school year, Amanda Vasquez kept an 8-year-old boy from being pressured to leave his school. He was “not meeting learning objectives,” so his charter school wanted him to transfer the following year, while his twin sister was allowed to stay.
The boy has type 1 diabetes. High blood glucose makes it difficult for him to concentrate, and he was frequently missing class so his mom could check his blood glucose and administer insulin. The problem was not that the boy has diabetes, says Vasquez, a licensed clinical social worker at the University of South Florida Diabetes Center. The real issue? He didn’t have a 504 plan, an agreement that ensures a student with a disability is medically safe and given the same access to education as other children. While charter schools are legally required to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act, without a 504 plan, they don’t have a blueprint to follow.
Vasquez heard about the issue with the school through the diabetes center, where the boy had been a patient for several years. She accompanied his family to their meeting with the principal and put her advocacy training to work. A few hours later, the boy had a 504 plan that stated his need for additional testing time, diabetes training for the staff, and a trained teacher to be present for field trips. It was a win for the school and family, who were both happy with the terms.
This is the type of positive outcome that Vasquez fights for on a daily basis. “I’m there to be a supportive resource to make sure [my clients] have access to everything they need to be successful,” she says.
While Vasquez works primarily with children who have type 1, she also sees adults to help them get the care they need. “A lot of times people [come to me] because they can’t afford their medicine,” she says. In that case, she helps them fill out applications for patient assistance programs, which pharmaceutical companies offer to low-income people. Typically, prescriptions are covered at no charge for a year.
Other barriers that frequently crop up include lack of access to healthy foods, insurance issues, and what’s known as psychosocial problems, such as coping with a diabetes diagnosis and self-management. “I assess the barriers that come up, offer any kind of support or counseling, identify the needs for those things, and then link people up with either someone in our center or out in the community,” she says.
Recently, Vasquez helped out a woman who wasn’t able to get her diabetes supplies, due to a change in insurance. Vasquez jumped into action, calling the insurance company to figure out the problem. It turned out to be a simple solution: The request needed to go through a mail order supply company. “We set that up while she was here,” says Vasquez.
The medical center where Vasquez works employs not only endocrinologists, but also a psychologist, dietitian, and diabetes educators. Often Vasquez’s job involves connecting her clients with health care professionals who can address a specific problem. In other clinics, a social worker might be called upon only if a person with diabetes is having a hard time coping or getting access to medications.
If someone is struggling to cope with diabetes but is not interested in seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist, Vasquez will step into her role as a counselor. “I work with them after doctor visits to check in, offer support, and help them recognize any difficulties coping,” she says. “I keep in touch with a lot of people. If I know they are struggling, I check on them between appointments to see how they are doing.”
Whether you’re having a hard time coping with diabetes, not receiving coverage from your insurance company, or feel you’re being treated unfairly at work or school because of your diabetes, social workers can help. “If I can’t fix it, then I’ll help you find the right place to go,” Vasquez says.
At a Glance
What Is a Social Worker?
A licensed clinical social worker can connect you to resources, identify barriers to proper medical care, act as an advocate in school and work situations, and help you and your family overcome barriers and emotional struggles.
How Do I Know ff I Need a Social Worker?
If you are struggling to afford your medications, need help managing your diabetes, or simply need to talk with someone about your emotional well-being, a social worker can be a great resource.
Where Do I Find a Social Worker?
In certain university clinics and hospital systems, a social worker will be assigned to you. But that’s not always the case. Many work in private practice, and you can find one in your area with a tool from the National Association of Social Workers.
What Credentials Does a Social Worker Have?
Most social workers have a master’s degree in social work. Those who want to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) must also complete two to three years of clinical supervision. In certain states, the credentials are listed as LCSW-C, or licensed certified social worker, clinical. You may also notice the credentials LICSW, or licensed independent clinical social worker. These social workers have independent private practices.