NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Albert G. Feldman (1909-1975)
Community organization, with emphasis on health and mental health, was the focus of Albert Feldman's professional career during the four decades he devoted to it. In 1934, he abandoned research chemistry and work with test tubes in favor of working with and for people; but the scientific methods in which he had been trained -- analysis and research -- were employed in his new chosen field and characterized his many accomplishments as a social work educator, administrator, community organizer. He was a pioneer and innovator, influencing the creation of long-lived programs and policies.
With the support of the then-director of the Los Angeles County General Hospital, Feldman devised a demonstration of a successful and still-continuing activity to send doctors to homes rather than have the seriously chronically ill go to the hospital; this was the prototype utilized by other hospitals and by nursing organizations in various localities. He designed and conducted a county-wide survey of mental health needs and services to establish a blueprint for meeting needs; this utilized community organization techniques, recruiting hundreds of professional and lay volunteers in its conduct, thereby interesting a reservoir of community leaders in implementing the resulting recommendations. He engaged the local body of citizens in assisting in the passage and creation of state-county mental health legislation, then known as the Lanterman, Petris, Short Act.
Subsequently, NIMH funded the Mental Health Development Commission, which Feldman directed to carry out the recommendations of the Mental Health Survey. A number of agencies emerged from these activities including Portals, a half-way house for mentally ill; the Center for Training in Community Psychiatry at UCLA; the Suicide Prevention Center; the Commission on Mental Retardation; etc. Networking groups also emerged and the need for mental health services was introduced into a variety of public and corporate organizations, some of which continue to make such services available to employees.
In 1968 Feldman returned to the University of Southern California as Deputy Director of the Andrus Gerontology Center, with joint appointments in social work and public administration. His focus was largely on mental health and aging. He developed degree and certificate programs on related interests, including standards and services in nursing and other facilities for the elderly. He designed and established the first school of gerontology in the nation, which began operation just before his death.
Feldman served on numerous commissions, both nationally and internationally: NIMH; State Commission on Gerontology; International Congress on Gerontology; Governor's Advisory Committee on Mental Health. He was a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging, president of the Western Gerontological Society, and a fellow of the National Gerontology Society. Over the years he taught at UCLA, USC, and as invited lecturer in universities in Korea, India, England, and Germany. He left an enduring legacy of mental health and gerontological programs.