Growing the Mental and Behavioral Health Workforce Through Community Partnerships: New Paid Internships

By: Dr. Peter Allen Lee

Four community agency partners are paving the way to more paid internships for San José State University social work students. Community Solutions, Gardner Health Services, Momentum for Health and Rebekah Children’s Services were successfully funded through a grant from the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) Community Services Division. They will be offering financial support to social work students in our BASW bachelor’s and MSW master’s program in the 2022-2023 academic year for students interning at those agencies.   Given the severe shortage of social workers and other professionals needed in mental and behavioral health services, this DHCS grant focuses on Behavioral Health Workforce Development (BHWD) through the Mentored Internship Program (MIP). This is a significant step regarding compensation for internships given that most social work internships are unpaid.

BASW and MSW students, as well as other Spartans at San José State University, are remarkable for their talent, abilities, and passion for education. Indeed, as the #1 Transformative College (according to Money Magazine in 2020), SJSU provides students with life-changing opportunities to earn a university degree and shape a successful professional and personal journey. Even more remarkable, many SJSU students are the first in their families to attend university, and must balance caring for family with working part-time or even full-time in addition to going to school.

We are very thankful to these four community agency partners for pursuing these opportunities to support student interns financially. They represent the over 250 dedicated agency partners networking with our School of Social Work who provide internship placements for over 425 social work students in field education locally and across California.

As part of accreditation standards and quality professional preparation, BASW social work students are required to complete 480 hours of internship as a senior major, and MSW students 1,200 hours across two years in internship. The internship is the cornerstone of educational and practical training, but typically without monetary compensation. As education and financial landscapes change, paid internships would help students succeed, especially in cases where students already have a difficult time affording college and managing numerous responsibilities outside of school. Hopefully, grants and partnered opportunities such as these will lead to more paid internships or models to provide resources to enable students to focus on their professional preparation, and relieve the financial pressures so that our students may thrive.

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