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AVASW Social Worker of the Quarter 2016

AVASW Social Worker of the 3rd Quarter
Susan Kennelly, LCSW

The Social Worker of the Third Quarter is Susan Kennelly. She is a supervising social worker on the VA Puget Sound Health Care System's inpatient psychiatric unit in Seattle.  She moved to Seattle in 2009 after spending 7 years working at a Community Mental Health agency with a variety of homeless programs with adults with mental health illness and /or chemical dependency issues.  She states that many of the agencies clients were Veterans and this where her passion for working with Veterans was really cultivated.  She also became an advocate for those Veterans and researched how to access services and programs through the VA to connect her clients to.  "Our community agency had a great deal of resources; however, it was amazing to watch several clients access the VA system for the first time and to then really engage in care that lead to a more fulfilled life for the first time.  They had been missing something, and they found that something with other Veterans and providers at the VA."  It is clear from listening to her colleagues and looking at her own narrative, that Susie Kennelly's passion for working with Veterans came from those experiences of seeing the impact of change, growth and fulfillment for the Veterans that received treatment and care with their fellow soldiers.

After Susan moved to Seattle,, she actively pursued finding a position working with the VA and particularly the homeless programs that the VA offered.  Her first position was at the Domiciliary Care for the Homeless Veterans Program at VA Puget Sound Health Care System in American Lake (campus near Tacoma), She indicated that she had a great experience working with Veterans who were homeless that were able to achieve their goals of employment and housing while working with the DCHV program.

In 2010 she hired on the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit on the Seattle campus and made the transition to a position where she was primarily using the mental health skills that she had cultivated after graduate school in the Community Mental Health agency.  She quickly moved into a supervisory role on the unit and joined the psychiatric unit's leadership team.  She states "the VA has brought many challenges, along with success, and I have grown a great deal while learning to navigate our complex system." 

According to the physician who nominated Susan, “Susie is an all-star performer as the lead social worker for 7W, the inpatient psychiatry unit at the Puget Sound VA.  Over the 5 years she has worked on 7 W, she has changed the role of social work (for the better) in many ways.  She has expanded the role to include court evaluations for involuntary mental health treatment.  She has overseen the incorporation of social work interns into the inpatient unit.  She has represented mental health in the hospital’s complex discharge team and systems redesigns. She was a leading voice in the physical redesigning of our inpatient psychiatry unit to make it more patient-centered. She brings innovative, evidence-based ideas to the treatment groups, which have improved by leaps and bound during her time here. .I view her as the greatest asset we have on our inpatient team, and I am proud to consider her a colleague.”  She got additional endorsements from social workers on the inpatient psychiatry unit and one sat next to this writer on the city bus on my way home to let me know why she deserved the 3rd quarter AVASW Social Work Achievement Award.  Thank you Susie. You are a great role model for us all.


AVASW Social Worker of the 4th Quarter
Maritza Grau-Magat, LCSW

The AVASW is proud to announce the 4th Quarter Social Work Achievement Award which goes to Maritza Grau-Magat from San Juan, PR.  Ms. Grau-Magat has been a Senior Social Worker at the MHTRC-Tele Mental Health Programs since 2012. She has worked for the VA in 2005 she worked in the PTSD Clinic in San Juan until 2007, and then in 2012 moved into her present position.  Ms. Grau-Magat was the first social worker in San Juan to work with the Tele Mental Health Program.  She is a Regional CPT Regional Trainer and the only Cognitive Processing Therapy trainer in the area.  she is a trainer, consultant, and support for other professionals in this therapy modality. She trains social workers, psychologist, nurses and psychiatry professionals in the Cognitive Processing Therapy that is widely used at their facility.  She was President of the Puerto Rico NASW and did workshops and training for the chapter and for other providers in the area on a variety of mental health related therapy modalities.

Her colleague states “Ms. Grau-Magat is a natural team leader because she is very supportive and dominates the skills of coaching other clinicians to achieve excellency.”  The nomination indicates that she has effected the lives of hundreds of PTSD Veterans and is always available and willing to serve Veterans in need when they come in seeking assistance whether they have an appointment or not. “She is a role model especially in very difficult cases related to trauma, family interventions and military sexual trauma.”

In addition to her accomplishments while at the VA, she had been the Director of the Social Work department for the Hospital de Psiquiatria Rio Piedras in San Juan.  She received her MSW from Barry University in Miami, FL and brought her knowledge from her prior positions to the VA when she joined the staff.

When asked what words of wisdom that she would pass on to colleagues or new social workers is “You must like what you do and believe in it”.  She is a continuous leaner and believes that to be an effective therapist, that you need to constantly be learning about advances that are made in mental health illnesses and treatments.  She uses the interdisciplinary team to review cases and gets support and information that she gathers incorporated in her treatment plans.  She also states that being a team member with good relationships with your colleagues is an essential for her job. 

Congratulations Maritza Grau-Magat for receiving the 4th quarter AVASW Social Work Achievement Award..




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