Behavioral Health Stipend Helps Make Dreams for Future Social Workers Come True

By: Paola Quintanilla, Graduate Student Leader and Social Media Specialist, School of Social Work

Duc-Trung Tong is a recipient of the Public Behavioral Health MSW Training Program. Check out what Trung has to say about his experience!

“Hello! My name is Duc-Trung Tong. I go by just Trung. My pronouns are he/him/his, and I am currently in my final year of my MSW with the Online/Hybrid program.

I am currently interning with Gardner Health Services in San José. The specific program I am assigned to is the Forensic, Diversion, and Reintegration (FDR) program which is a full-service partnership (FSP) program that provides intensive mental health and substance use treatment to individuals in the criminal justice system. In the past two months, I have had many new experiences working in behavioral health, as the bulk of my work in this internship requires direct services in the community with my clients. Compared to my employment which is based in an outpatient substance use treatment program, I work with clients in some of the most vulnerable times of their lives. Whether clients are recently released from incarceration or emergency psychiatric services (EPS), I am pushed to provide much-needed case management and therapeutic services to ensure success in their reintegration back into their communities. I believe the skills I will continue to grow will prepare me for many situations and environments in my career in behavioral health.

The Public Behavioral Health Program (PBH) aligns with my goals and aspirations in the field of behavioral health. Years before applying to the MSW program, I hoped to eventually earn the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) credential to provide therapeutic services in mental health and substance use for underserved communities in Santa Clara County. The PBH program not only supports me financially in paying for my college tuition but will also provide me with the training to expand my scope of practice and clinical skills.

My goal post-graduation is to work towards earning the LCSW and continue working in a public-funded community-based organization. I also plan on advancing my current credential in substance use to become a Licensed Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LAADC). With the dual credential and specialization in substance use, I hope to contribute to advancing the field of substance use as the professionals and field as a whole have been historically under-appreciated compared to solely mental health professionals. Furthermore, my overall goal is to rewrite the narratives of formerly incarcerated individuals as I will join the small number of therapists who have been impacted by the criminal justice system.

The stipend has validated the existing goals and purpose I have of serving my community. I feel honored to be chosen as one of the final candidates and will continue dedicating myself to the path I envisioned many years ago.”

Training sites include publicly-funded behavioral health programs in community clinics, outpatient and residential treatment programs, inpatient psychiatric units, schools, SELPAs, regional centers, inpatient and outpatient health care settings, child welfare units, juvenile delinquency programs, and adult corrections settings, among others. Specialized training content will focus on preparing students for the realities of public behavioral health practice and emphasize the coordination and integration of services provided to adults, children, and families through multiple systems of care.

The School of Social Work Launches “The Social Work Experience” Podcast

By Destiny Santana, Eric Garcia, Franciso Garcia, and Peter Allen Lee

Inspired by one of their Social Work Policy professors, Masters of Social Work students Eric Garcia and Francisco “Pancho” Garcia have brought to fruition a social work podcast. From an assignment in Dr. Jennifer Wolf’s class which involved creating a one-off podcast to discuss policy, Eric and Pancho were inspired to create a serial podcast that would discuss and explore the social work field in more depth. Through special guests and topics, this podcast was meant to create conversations that would open the world of social work to its listeners. The team of students invited Dr. Peter Allen Lee, Director and Professor at the School of Social Work, to be the School’s representative partner and occasional co-host.

“We are very excited to share that SWGSA [the Social Work Graduate Student Association] and the School of Social Work have partnered to create and launch a new podcast, The Social Work Experience. The podcast hopes to create a community in the social work program by having Authentic Conversations at least once a month. They will do this by having special guests and announce pertinent information. Some future topics may include the program application process, getting to know social work students and professors, discussing social issues and problems, and professional development. Ultimately, they want to have discussions beyond the classroom!”

The inaugural episode was recorded on October 25, 2022 and published in November 2022, and now has five episodes produced, with more coming. The podcast has broadcasted interviews and spotlights on topics such as social work and life as a journey, how to apply to an MSW program, the student organization and student leadership, post-graduate life and career planning, and examples of specialized practice such as child welfare and the Title IV-E Program.

Currently, there have been 433 listeners and audience members locally, nationally, and even internationally. Primarily, the listeners are from the United States and in California, but there are listeners in other states such as Washington, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Nevada, and Ohio. Other countries include Mexico, the United Kingdom, India, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Eric and Pancho are especially excited about the community being built among Social Work programs across the country, San José State University, professionals in the field, and other community partners since the podcast has launched and evolved.

The Social Work Experience podcast is available through Apple Podcasts and Spotify.  Click on the hyperlinks or search for the podcast name and you will see an archive as well as the latest episodes!

“We are so appreciative and excited about our podcast, and looking forward to growing our audience, ultimately to inform, advocate, and better the lives around us.  SJSU Social Work: Stand Up! Stand Proud! Stand Together!” – Eric and Pancho

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.

CHHS DEI Profile – Dr. Asha Thomas

Dr. Asha ThomasDr. Asha Thomas – School of Social Work

What is your role in your department/school?

I am the School Coordinator, Undergraduate and Graduate On-Campus advisor at the School of Social Work

What would you identify as one of the most significant actions you have taken to advance the cause for diversity either in the classroom, your community or your profession?

I believe that my strongest and salient contribution to diversity in my profession occurred when I, as a faculty member in a mid-western university, led a group of graduate students to study and work in India. Most of my graduate students participating in the program had not lived or worked in a developing nation.  The primary challenge for the participants was to negotiate cultural differences and barriers. The program also required them to do intense field work in community settings. During the earlier phases of the program, students relied on my help to interpret the complex and unfamiliar Indian culture. The discomfort and vulnerability created by the unfamiliar provided a golden opportunity for the group to reflect on complex issues related to race, LGBTQ rights, economic oppression, political participation etc. Students were able to discuss issues of social justice and marginalization within a comparative framework – India and the US.  I introduced both experiential learning and course-readings on LGBTQ rights, race and housing rights, and the fight for wage equality. Student have provided strong feedback about the inclusiveness of the program and the rich learnings about Indian culture, social structure and politics. In fact, this year I was asked to lead the program again.

How have you integrated topics of DEI into hiring new faculty and/or admitting students?

The School of Social work pays close and careful attention to topics of DEI in our admission process. Prospective applicants are introduced to our Transcultural Perspective during the admission’s informational session. Videos and other material on the TCP are available on the admissions page. Applicants are asked to reflect on various aspects of the TCP in their personal statement.

During the admission review process, the admission committee evaluates the applicants’ responses to the salient aspects of the TCP framework. The TCP emphasizes the importance of culture in social work at all levels of practice; understanding dynamics of power, privilege, and oppression; maintaining an awareness of one’s own cultural perspectives, values, and beliefs; and demonstrating respect in interactions within, among, and between systems. Specifically, the Committee reads for the applicant’s understanding and experiences with diversity and cultural humility in all areas pertaining to social work practice.

Tell us about how you and why you became attentive to DEI topics. What prompted this change in your department/school?  What did the process look like?

This is an interesting question because my response to this might sound cliched. I grew up in India—that sentence right there answers the how and why. The theoretical lens to understand issues of DEI came during my social work training in India (although we never quite used this term—at that time it was oppression and social justice). Our curriculum was strongly focused on Marxism and social justice. The ability to work on the topic during decades long practice with some of the most marginalized communities in India. The work was intense, hard and demanded considerable grit and patience. This led to a doctoral dissertation focused on social movements, the Indian state and tribal rights.

What support did you need to make it happen?  Did you draw on existing resources or examples that were helpful in guiding your change?

I have relied on the support of my colleagues and mentors in this work. Most of my experiences were based on a political rights /community approach to social work. In the US, particularly teaching social work was challenging, and the learning curve was steep. Here the focus is more on individual aspects of identity, and social work tends to focus on what we call micro or mezzo systems. In the School of Social Work, we have strong leadership and commitment to DEI related work.

Tell us one book, one article, one documentary, or once movie you’ve read or watched that you would like to suggest to others that helped shape your thinking about DEI work.

I am not sure if I can call it a DEI book, but a book that shaped my understanding of Civil Rights (and the fight for political inclusion) in the US is “Poor People’s Movements: Why they Succeed and How they Fail” by Piven and Cloward. This book helped me understand the immense potential of community action and organizing to bring about change. It is also a valuable account of the welfare rights movement in the US. Yet, it also cautions the social worker that real change is hard to win and sustain. Clearly, a valuable lesson for everyone that is working in the frontlines of DEI.

School of Social Work Expands MSW Student Opportunities for IPE

By: Ellen Ostergren, Destiny Santana, and Dr. Peter Allen Lee

Interprofessional Practice and Education or IPE is an emergent way of teaching and learning skills that prepare healthcare workers to be effective in teams.  As healthcare systems evolve to deliver care through teams, social workers’ roles and influence have expanded. The School of Social Work is part of this expansion, providing opportunities for Masters of Social Work (MSW) students to develop within an IPE framework and preparing them to work in dynamic health and mental health care teams where social workers contribute essential skills and perspectives among their colleagues who include physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, and physical therapists.

IPE is a unique way of developing the knowledge, skills, and values that health care workers need to problem-solve within an interdisciplinary team setting. According to de Saxe Zerden, IPE is founded on the premise that each team member has key expertise and a vital role in improving clients’ health outcomes. For instance, social workers serve as advocates for care, case managers and brokers of resources, and hands-on interventionists. IPE training programs provide social work students the opportunity to participate alongside peers in other health-related fields to problem-solve scenarios, learn effective communication, and plan care to meet the needs of diverse clients and patients. According to Jones and Phillips, IPE allows team members from other disciplines to understand the role of social workers, and social workers often become leaders in this type of team collaboration.

California Social Work Education CenterOne such IPE program is the San Francisco Bay Area Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) MSW Stipend Program led by the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) and funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). According to CalSWEC, the program’s main goal is to build capacity and infrastructure for greater integration of behavioral health care and primary care services within communities in need. MSW students are taught specialized training that prepares them for effective behavioral health care services in integrated care settings. Upon graduation, students commit to seeking employment in IBH settings. The IBH program offers students participation in IPE with nursing, medical, and allied health students in the Bay Area.  Currently, our School of Social Work has six students in the IBH Program along with other final-year MSW students from the University of California at Berkeley, CSU East Bay, and San Francisco State University. MSW students earn a $10,000 stipend as they complete field hours, designated classes, and additional IPE educational activities. Among the key components, students engage in an intensive simulation experience provided by Samuel Merritt University and their simulation lab. The students receive hands-on experience collaborating with nursing and medical students in a simulated patient safety scenario, including practical application of TeamSTEPPS  (Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety), an evidence-based set of teamwork tools developed to address communication and teamwork in health care settings. TeamSTEPPS is used at hospitals and healthcare settings across the county to enhance cooperative processes that impact all areas of care delivery.

It is exhilarating to see our students participate in IPE, gain real-world skills for communication and teamwork, and provide other learner-professionals a chance to collaborate with social workers who are vital members of any healthcare team. While IPE is a newer element in social work education and not yet integrated into most graduate-level coursework, it is aligned with the Council on Social Work Education’s competency-based education model and a natural fit for educators and clinicians alike. Our School of Social Work is excited about the opportunities IPE brings to our students and we are looking forward to even greater expansion of these efforts.