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H.R. 2165 (110th): Teri Zenner Social Worker Safety Act

The text of the bill below is as of May 3, 2007 (Introduced). The bill was not enacted into law.



1st Session

H. R. 2165


May 3, 2007

(for himself, Mrs. McCarthy of New York, Ms. Shea-Porter, Mr. Hare, Mr. Manzullo, Mr. Poe, and Mr. Ramstad) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor


To establish a grant program to assist in the provision of safety measures to protect social workers and other professionals who work with at-risk populations.


Short title

This Act may be cited as the Teri Zenner Social Worker Safety Act.



Congress finds the following:


According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, some 2 million American workers are victims of job-related violence each year.


On August 17, 2004, Teri Zenner, a social worker and case manager with Johnson County Mental Health Center, was stabbed and killed during a routine, in-home visit with a client.


Based on OSHA’s most recently published Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care & Social Service Workers, 48 percent of all non-fatal injuries from occupational assaults and violent acts occurred in the fields of health care and social services.


A major study by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, found that 70 percent of front-line child welfare workers had been victims of violence or threats in the line of duty. A review of the 585 exit interviews found that 90 percent of former child welfare workers experienced verbal threats, 30 percent experienced physical attacks, and 13 percent had been threatened with weapons.


Based on 2000 Bureau of Labor Statistics findings, social service workers in the public sector, including social workers and case workers, are approximately 7 times more likely to be the victims of violent assaults while at work than are workers in the private sector.


States such as California, New Jersey, and Washington, and the National Association of Social Workers, have all developed various safety programs with safety guidelines for social workers and case workers to follow while in the course of their employment;


Social workers and case workers elevate service to others above self-interest, and draw on their knowledge, values and skills to help people in need and to address social problems. Job-related violence against social workers and case workers affects these hard-working and dedicated individuals, their families, their clients, and their communities throughout the United States;


There is a need to increase public awareness and understanding of job-related violence in the field of social services and to meet the needs of social workers and case workers in preventing such violence. Although not every incident of job-related violence can be prevented, many can, and the severity of injuries sustained by social workers and case workers can be reduced.


Social worker safety grant program


Grants authorized

The Secretary of Health and Human Services (the Secretary), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is authorized to award grants to States to provide safety measures to social workers and other professionals working with violent, drug-using, or other at-risk populations.


Use of funds

Grants awarded pursuant to subsection (a) may be used to provide or support the following safety measures:


The procurement and installation of safety equipment, including communications systems, such as GPS tracking devices and GPS cell telephones to assist agencies in locating staff, and any technical assistance and training for safety communications.


Training exercises for self-defense and crisis management.


Facility safety improvements.


The provision of pepper spray for self-defense.


Training in cultural competency, including linguistic training, and training on strategies for de-escalating a situation that could turn volatile.


Training to help workers who work with mentally ill community or that have behavioral problems and need help coping.


Educational resources and materials to train staff on safety and awareness measures.


Other activities determined by the Secretary to be safety training.




In general

A State seeking a grant under subsection (a) shall submit an application to the Secretary, at such time, in such manner, and accompanied by such additional information as the Secretary may require.



Each application submitted pursuant to paragraph (1) shall—


describe the type of agencies that will be receiving funding from the grant and type of work done by such agencies;


describe the specific activities for which assistance under this section is sought and include a program budget; and


contain an assurance that the applicant will evaluate the effectiveness of the safety measure provided with funds received under the grant;



In awarding grants under subsection (a), the Secretary shall give priority to those applicants that—


demonstrate the greatest need based on documented incidents; and


seek to provided assistance to multiple agencies.


Quality assurance and cost-effectiveness

The Secretary shall establish guidelines for assuring the cost-effectiveness and quality of the safety measures funded under this section.


Technical assistance

The Secretary may provide technical assistance to grant recipients with respect to planning, developing, and implementing safety measures under the grant.


Report requirement

States receiving grants shall file with the Secretary, not later than 2 years after the receipt of the grant, information that includes—


an assessment of the activities funded in whole or in part with such grant;


the range and scope of training opportunities, including numbers and percentage of social workers engaged in the training programs funded in whole or in part by such grant; and


the incidence of threats to social workers, if any, and the strategies used to address their safety.


Non-Federal share

For any State receiving a grant under this section, the non-Federal share of any program to provide safety measures shall be 50 percent.


Authorization of Appropriations

There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of Health and Human Services $5,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2008 through 2012 to carry out this Act.