MSU Denver

6th Annual Social Work Policy Conference: How Does Policy Address Equity?

Friday, October 7, 2022 | 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Virtual Webinar

The 6th Annual Social Work Policy Conference, hosted by the Metropolitan State University of Denver Department of Social Work, will consist of a two (2) hour webinar focusing on practical applications of DEI work in policy by understanding how to thoughfully and intentionally address equity in policy and legislation as well as dismantle systems of oppression.

For more information or if you have any questions, please contact Lori Darnel, Assistant Professor, at [email protected] or Teiriana Ibarra, Event Planning Specialist, at [email protected]

Note: Continuing Education (CE) Credits available. Request information located in the conference evaluation forms. Pending approval fro NASW CE credit: 2 credits, 1 per hour.

Keynote Speaker: Colorado Representative Leslie Herod

Leslie Herod was elected in 2016 as the first LGBTQ African American in the Colorado General Assembly. Since then, she has passed 150 bills, addressing criminal justice reform, mental health, addiction, youth homelessness, and civil rights protections.

Some of her signature work includes:

  • Ending cash bail for minor offenses
  • De-felonizing drug possession
  • Giving every Colorado newborn a $100 college kickstarter account
  • Providing free menstrual hygiene products to inmates in Colorado’s prisons and jails
  • Passing a comprehensive police accountability bill following the highly public murder of George Floyd, and the nationwide movement that followed

In addition to winning reelection in 2018, Herod championed a ballot initiative – Caring for Denver – that raises $35 million annually for mental health and substance abuse treatment and services for children and adults. Herod serves as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and is a member of the powerful Joint Budget Committee.

Moderator: Nina Williams-Mbengue

Nina Williams Mbengue retired as Senior Fellow in 2020 from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Child Welfare Project where for nearly 25 years, she provided advice and consultation, interpretation and analysis of child welfare trends, and commentary on child welfare policy initiatives and nuances to other nationally recognized experts, legislative policymakers, public officials, foundation executives, researchers and media representatives. Recognized as NCSL’s child welfare expert across a broad spectrum of organizations, state legislatures and in the subject field. This included providing policy content for NCSL’s 2020 Virtual Series on COVID-19 Impact on Child Welfare; managing NCSL’s response to the federal Family First Prevention Services Act; co-authoring “Bridging the Gaps Between Research, Policy and Practice in the Field of Child Maltreatment…” a paper which won an EndCAN Foundation Disruption Paper award and was published in the International Journal of Child Maltreatment; and, managing NCSL component of national collaborative “Three Branch” Institutes with the National Governor’s Association consisting of state teams of representatives from the three branches of government developing statewide strategic plans on child welfare system policy. Nina created NCSL’s first Child Welfare Fellows program and has crafted technical assistance programs and written numerous publications for the legislative audience. Prior to NCSL, she worked in the Children’s Division at the American Humane Association. Nina is currently providing policy consultation on child welfare.


Dr. DJ Ida, Ph.D. – National Consultant, from the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association

Dr. DJ Ida has over forty years of experience working with Asian American/Pacific Islander communities.  She received her doctorate in clinical psychology and helped establish numerous organizations, including the Asian American Educational Opportunity Program at the U of Colorado, the Asian Pacific Development Center, a specialty mental health clinic in Denver and the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association. She has served on numerous advisory boards including the US Dept HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Advisory Board, Mental Health America, the Annapolis Coalition for Behavioral Health Workforce, the Hogg Foundation and the UC Davis Medical School Center for Eliminating Health Disparities.  She received the Robert Wood Johnson Award for Health Equity for her efforts to focus on the impact of mental health on the health and wellbeing of ethnically diverse and linguistically isolated populations.  She was the primary author for the Office of Minority Health’s Integrated Care for AANHPIs:  A Blueprint for Action (2012).  In 2001 she served as a peer reviewer for the Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity and was a contributing author for the Eliminating Disparities for Racial and Ethnic Communities Subcommittee report for the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health as well as the Annapolis Coalition on Behavioral Health Workforce’s paper An Action Plan for Behavioral Health Workforce Development.  In an effort to improve the quality of care for AANHPIs she helped develop Growing Our Own to train clinicians on how to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services; Achieving Whole Health to train community members to become Wellness Coaches; and the Mental Health Interpreters Training to work in mental health settings recognizing the unique challenges faced when interpreting with immigrant and refugee populations.

Elizabeth Mendez Shannon, MSW, Ph.D. – National Consultant, Director of DEI for the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at the University of Iowa

Dr. Liz Mendez-Shannon is a national consultant in diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives. Her work has included the Diversity and Inclusion Community Engagement Lead for the American Rescue Plan Act (2021) and Disaster Recovery Divisions for Boulder County leading strategic planning in community engagement involving regional partnerships, collaborations with other community organizations, and integration of programs across multiple departments in the county.  Her areas of specialization include macro-community development, programmatic leadership including start-up development, clinical practice development and cross-cultural organizing such as with local police, non-profit organizations, and universities; all while integrating efforts towards creating a welcoming workplace.

Michelle Davis, MS, LPC, PCC – Assistant Professor and Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Justice (JEDI) at the Kempe Center, University of Colorado-Anschutz

Michelle believes that we are the answer to the social ills that plague our society. She aspires to reach the essence of our humanity as an organization and relationship systems coach, as a leadership coach, and in her current role as director of JEDI, utilizing a comprehensive approach. One highlight of Michelle’s long-standing career is her design of a coaching program that elevates our ability to have conversations that bridge our divisions and generate personal and organizational belonging; Race Intelligence (RQ™) seeks to facilitate discovery, healing, transformation, and action for individuals, teams, and organizations. As a Dare to Lead facilitator, Michelle works with teams to unleash daring leadership over armored leadership, support leaders in harnessing the Four Skill Sets of Courage™ in themselves and others, and to cultivate high-performing, cohesive teams. Michelle is a licensed professional counselor, certified systems coach, professionally certified coach, and certified Dare to Lead facilitator. She received her master’s in counseling at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Michelle enjoys spending time with her family, binging great shows, family game nights, and traveling near and far to marvel at the wonders of this world.

Sheldon Spotted Elk – Senior Director of Judicial and National Engagement at Casey Family Programs

Sheldon Spotted Elk has a background and presents regularly on tribal law, child welfare and the ICWA. He is currently a judge on the Ute Indian Tribe Court of Appeals (Fort Duchesne, Utah) in a jurisdiction he once represented children in child welfare and juvenile delinquency matters. He has worked as an adjunct professor teaching a law school course on Family Law in Indian Country. He was recently recognized as a NCAIED 40 Under 40 recipient, a prestigious award which recognizes 40 emerging American Indian leaders from across Indian Country. He has published an influential law review article on tribal constitutional reform and has authored articles on the ICWA.  Sheldon is a graduate from University of New Mexico School of Law and received the Certificate in Federal Indian Law. He completed his undergraduate degree from University of Utah College of Social Work. And he and his two sons are members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

All students in the MSW Program Foundation level Policy class as well as HRSA stipend recipients are required to attend.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1.9M with no funds financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

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