NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Joseph Bevilacqua (1931- )
Joseph Bevilacqua has indeed blazed a very special path which included being appointed director or commissioner of mental health and mental retardation in three states: Rhode Island, Virginia, and South Carolina. For the last two decades he has given exceptional leadership to the development of improved institutional and community care of the mentally ill and mentally retarded and persons committed to correctional institutions. He has held national offices in the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Mental Program Directors and has been very influential in incorporating social work concepts in the deliberation of these organizations.
Bevilacqua began his social work career as a program director in Father Baker's Home for Boys (Lackawanna, NY 1955). He had received his master's degree in social work from the University of Buffalo that year. Later, he was a clinical social worker in the military social work program and in the VA. By 1966, he had become chief of the social work services at Ft. Devins, MA. He then returned to academia where he received his Ph.D. from Brandeis University, Florence Heller School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare in 1967. From 1968 to 1971, he was project officer of a military psychiatric study at Walter Reed Hospital.
After leaving the military, he became Assistant Commissioner for community affairs at the Department of Mental Health and Mental Hygiene in Richmond, VA. Along with his clinical positions, he has taught at the National Catholic University School of Social Service, the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University and Brown University. Bevilacqua has been a consultant, to and a member of, a number of influential task forces and committees including the President's Commission on Mental Health, Task Force on Organization and Structure of Mental Health Services (1977-1978), and the Dixon Implementation Monitoring committee appointed in 1980 to oversee the defendant's (St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington, DC) performance of their obligation under the federal decree ordered in the landmark case of Dixon v Weinberger. He was a member of the technical advisory panel appointed by the National Institute of Mental Health on evaluation and models of advocacy programs for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled and was chairperson for the State Mental Disability Commissioner's Work Group of the Task Force on Deinstitutionalization appointed by the Secretary of HEW in 1978. Bevilacqua has been active in NASW and served on the Competency Certification Board from 1974 to 1978. He was on the Board of Directors for the Council of Social Work Education from 1977 to 1980. His writings have included a publication reflecting some of his pioneer work in Rhode Island entitled "Changing Government Policies for the Mentally Disabled." He was the Director of Mental Health in South Carolina until 1996 and then taught at the University of South Carolina School of Social Work. In June 1996, Bevilacqua began working at the Judge David Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law where he continues to use his highly developed administrative and political skills to achieve improved care for those who need service.