Irving Levin

Obituary
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Levin, Irving A groundbreaker social worker who in 1996 was named Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), died of cancer in his Paris home on September 14. He was 86. Mr. Levin, a longtime D.C. resident, received the NASW award in recognition of the outstanding work he had accomplished in Europe over a period of 40 years. He had been a pioneer on two continents, and in many facets of mental healthcare. He was also honored as an NASW Social Work Pioneer. Irving Levin was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1924 and was a graduate of Atlantic City High School. He spent four years in the Navy during WWII (one of three brothers to serve in the wartime military) after which he received a BA from George Washington University. He then went on to get his degree in social work from the Richmond Professional Institute (now part of Virginia Commonwealth University) in 1952. He worked in several mental health settings in the D.C. area, including St. Elizabeth's Hospital, the Juvenile Court, and the Department of Pupil Appraisal of the DC Public Schools. In 1960, he became the Chief Psychiatric Social Worker on the Northern Virginia Mental Health Project, where he developed follow-up services for patients discharged from State mental hospitals and stimulated mental health activities in many community agencies. In 1963, when project funds were terminated, he went to Montgomery County, Maryland, where he helped develop the first comprehensive mental health center in that area. At that time, these were both innovative programs. During the more than four decades that he lived abroad (he maintained his US citizenship), Mr. Levin was counselor for more than twenty years at the American School of Paris and also made weekly visits to Americans in jails or who were hospitalized. He was instrumental in founding both the Students Advisory Service (which provides counseling for college students) and FACTS, the Free Anglo Counseling and Treatment Service, for people with HIV/AIDS. This latter group paved the way for more effective communication between English and French-language services for AIDS patients. In addition, he traveled widely throughout his life, and his career included such diverse experiences as teaching in pre-Castro Cuba and organizing student expeditions to all parts of the world. An avid opera and classical music follower, Mr. Levin was fluent in four languages and conversant in at least five others. He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Nicole Hesse Levin.

Published in Washington Times from Oct. 4 to Nov. 2, 2010
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