Honoring 100 for the 100th: Edsel Ford, Sr.

Edsel Ford Sr. PhotoEdsel W. Ford Sr. graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Master’s degree in Social Work in 1961. He began his tenure as a Social Worker serving as a Field Representative for the Oklahoma Department of Public Welfare, and was instrumental in developing juvenile institutions across seven counties. After four years with the Oklahoma Department of Public Welfare, he took a position as a Psychiatric Social Worker with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health.

During his tenure as a Psychiatric Social Worker (1965-1966), he developed community programs, a medication clinic, and established an outpatient aftercare clinic. He advocated, through legislation, to allow mental health money be spent anywhere in the state, allowing patients to have access to more resources and assistance. He also piloted legislation which established registration of social workers in Oklahoma, which grew into what we now call Licensed Clinical Social Workers.

In 1966, he continued his service as the Regional Aftercare Supervisor. He developed community programs and advocated for patients with a mental health diagnosis. He trained Junior League Volunteers to develop social histories at the time of a commitment hearing. He collaborated with the District Attorney’s office to develop seminars on mental health for the District Attorneys. He coordinated placement of University of Oklahoma nursing students in clinical programs and developed the program CONTACT from a joint study with Oklahoma City Police Department, which studied attempted suicides in the Oklahoma City Metro Area.

In 1978, he was designated as the Mental Health Programs Liaison Officer. He was responsible for the Federal Block Grant for Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health application, and was instrumental in the development and producing of a statewide plan for alcohol, drug, and mental health services, which included over 297 state ran boards. He was the designee Commissioner to the State Health Planning Commission.

In 1989, he was offered the position of Commissioner for the State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. He would be the first social worker to hold this position, as the precedent had been that a psychiatrist occupied this position. However, he would never have the opportunity to fulfill this role as he quietly passed away at his desk where he selflessly served many patients, family, and the community at Griffin Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Edsel Ford was pivotal for all current licensed social workers. It was because of him and his efforts to spearhead legislation that Oklahoma began to register social workers. He was an advocate for the mental health community and highly involved in all aspects of their care from grass roots and local community involvement to advocating at the legislature level. He developed outpatient programs to address the de-institutionalization movement and provide aftercare for patients who had become so dependent on an institution. He served on multiple professional and community boards such as serving as a chairman for the Western Oklahoma Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and chairman in the legislative committee of this chapter. He embodied the NASW “Code of Ethics” foundation of social work’s purpose. He served people, he served the community, and he served selflessly and with integrity.

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