NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Pioneering Contributions: Elliott Naishtat was the first person with a social work degree to be elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1990. Since then, he has been fighting for the residents of Texas of all backgrounds and beliefs. He has served the 49th District in the Texas House for 26 years, winning 13 consecutive elections. Naishtat has been a member of the House Human Services Committee and Vice Chair of the Public Health Committee, and was a founding board member of the House Progressive Caucus. Before he was elected, Naishtat was the director of the University of Texas School Of Social Work’s Legislative Training Program, where he mentored the next generation of political leaders, instilling in them the values and ethics he learned during his social work education. Naishtat has long assisted the NASW Texas Chapter in its relations with the Texas legislative and executive branches, and has been instrumental in championing their legislative agenda. He has been an invaluable advisor and ally for them and has opened many legislators’ doors on both sides of the aisle for the Texas Chapter Staff. In 2014, he brokered the Association's request for an Attorney General's Opinion on the State Medicaid reimbursement rates for LCSW's. This change will ensure expanded access for the citizens of Texas who have Medicaid and need high quality counseling/therapy. Naishtat has taken his background as a social worker and used it to pass legislation to help those in underserved and often ignored communities.
Career Highlights: In his 13 sessions in the Texas House, Naishtat has passed more than 300 bills, including the Braille Literacy Act, Landlord-Tenant Security Devices Act, Indoor Air Quality Act, Nursing Home Reform Act, Newborn Hearing Screening Act, Medicaid Simplification Act, Child Protective Services Act, and the Seniors' Property Tax Relief Act. He has passed bills that improved child labor law enforcement, expanded protective services for elderly and disabled people, created a statewide guardianship program, and enhanced crime victims' rights. He co-sponsored the Texas Anti-Stalking Act and Hate Crimes Act, as well as bills that increased protections for patients in psychiatric, substance abuse, and rehabilitation facilities. He advocated reviewing the state’s death penalty policies and for medical uses of marijuana. He also served as an advisor to the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Aging, and chair of Austin’s Community Development Commission. Naishtat will be retiring from the Texas House at the end of 2016.
Biographical Data: Naishtat was born in New York, but has lived in Texas for 45 years. He has two brothers, who reside in Oregon and in Austin, Texas. Naishtat received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Queens College in 1965, his MSSW with a concentration in Community Organization from the University of Texas at Austin in 1972, and his JD from the University of Texas at Austin in 1982. He was a VISTA volunteer for President Johnson’s War on Poverty, serving in Eagle Pass, Texas, before moving to Austin. In his free time, Naishtat enjoys walking, hiking, biking, swimming at Barton Springs Pool, and listening to live music in the Austin area.
Significant Achievements & Awards Received: Naishtat has received awards from organizations including AARP, American Foundation for the Blind, American Cancer Society, People First!, Common Cause, Sierra Club, Equality Texas, Texas Council on Family Violence, Texas Public Health Association, Texas Freedom Network, Texas CASA, and the Texas Legal Services Center. In 1999, he received the Public Elected Official of the Year Award from NASW. In 2002, he received the National Consumer Health Advocate Award from Families USA. In 2015, he received the President's Lifetime Achievement Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service. Naishtat has been named Legislator of the Year by the Texas Apartment Association and one of Texas' Outstanding Public Servants by the Consumers Union, Public Citizen, the Gray Panthers, and Texas Citizen Action.