Social Work Spotlight: Meet Crisis Response Manager Leonard Swanson

Leonard SwansonLeonard Swanson joined the WSU School of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health and Justice (CBHJ) team in 2017 while completing his MSW at Wayne State. His interest in macro social work led him to the confluence of broken mental health and criminal justice systems, which became too convoluted and captivating to ignore. He currently works as a CBHJ Project Coordinator helping counties navigate best- and evidence-based behavioral health practices along the criminal/legal continuum. 

Why did you choose to work at WSU?

The CBHJ is able to advance criminal/legal system changes for people with behavioral health concerns across the state- plus I get to work from home!

What is your favorite thing about your job?

I get to see counties make tangible improvements in their criminal/legal systems: opening pathways to opioid treatment, funding clinicians to offer behavioral health services in jails, and providing medications for people to avoid deadly overdoses. I also get to help envision and implement new crisis response services systems in a rapidly changing landscape.

How did your education prepare you for what you are doing today?

I learned how poverty makes everything harder. It’s one thing to learn conceptually, but it’s another to see situations play out in clients’ lives. Their stories gave me a perspective on what changes we need to advocate for on a system level.

How do you empower social change in your community?

I facilitated a new pathway to treatment for people who experience opioid overdoses in Kent and Monroe counties.  I also work with first responder systems to bring more mental health professionals to respond to crisis incidents in the community.

Do you have any advice for incoming students?

You don’t actually have to do all of the reading.  But make sure you listen.  Wayne State’s school of social work offers a tremendous chance to learn how our social systems work (and don’t work) in practice, not just in theory.

Do you have any advice for graduating students and alumni?

The privilege of this degree, and any other privileges you might have, are pretty remarkable.  It’s amazing how many doors privilege can open. Use them to benefit the world.

What is one thing others may not know about you?

I have an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies, and I also play stand-up jazz bass.

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