Breaking barriers every day: JBLM’s social workers Mentoring the next generation with Lt. Col. Michelle Garcia

By 1st Lt. Sanjeev Gurung, 555th Engineering BrigadeMadigan social work internMarch 30, 2023

LTC Garcia
Lt. Col. Michelle Garcia, a licensed clinical social worker, director of Training, Social Work Internship Program and program lead for Traumatic Event Management on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., at her promotion ceremony with current and former SWIP students and the Assistant Director of Training. (Photo Credit: Photo by Gabriel Garcia) VIEW ORIGINAL

MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. – If you have ever sought behavioral healthcare, have children in school, or received treatment for substance use, chances are you have met a social worker.

These healthcare professionals have earned a Master of Social Work or a doctorate and work with individuals, families and organizations to address their needs and concerns. They work in different settings, from community centers and schools to state and federal agencies.

March is national social work month. This affords a prime opportunity to inform the public and policymakers about the important role social workers play in varied settings.

This year the National Association of Social Workers has designated the theme of "social work breaks barriers."

Both historically and currently, social workers are on the forefront of social change and advancement. From Frances Perkins helping to establish a minimum wage and Social Security as the secretary of Labor during the Great Depression to cutting edge therapies that are supporting children and families.

Here at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., there are a number of exceptional social workers breaking barriers to help Soldiers and families overcome hurdles and thrive in their social and professional lives.

How long have you been a social worker? How long have you been working with the military population?

I commissioned in 2005. I graduated from the Army MSW Program in 2009. I completed my post graduate clinic hours at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and obtained independent clinical social work licensure in 2011. I have worked with the military population as a social worker since 2009 to present.

What attracted you to this profession?

I was attracted to this profession because I knew I wanted to help Service Members more one-on-one than what I was experiencing as a Medical Platoon Leader, 70B MOS.

How has your work with the military population broken barriers?

I see breaking barriers as identifying obstacles or challenges and working to come up with creative solutions, usually as part of a multi-disciplinary team.

As the Program Director of Training for the Social Work Internship Program (SWIP), I am teaching, mentoring, and supporting the future of Social Work with our current interns. Our SWIP interns do great work helping to improve processes in the Madigan Behavioral Health Service Line while also advancing their clinical skills by providing patient care to Service Members and their Families. They are force multipliers, helping to improve access to care and overall readiness for the population they serve within their assigned clinics.

In a previous assignment at the Northwestern Joint Regional Confinement Facility (NWJRCF), I was administratively responsible for the oversight and management of both medical and behavioral health care. I actively worked to improve the existing processes and procedures with the team to increase access and timeliness of care for the prisoner population.

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