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Summer Internships Focus on Mental Health Careers

Twenty-five Coachella Valley undergraduate health science students helped advance critical need projects for local health care businesses this summer through the Health Career Connection (HCC) internship program.

Hosted for the seventh year in collaboration with the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP), the HCC program offers ten-week, paid summer internships for local college students to introduce them to health care employers and career opportunities across the region with the goal that one day they return to the desert as our next-generation health care leaders. 

This summer, several students explored opportunities in the mental and behavioral health sector, as part of a targeted regional pipeline effort to address the critical shortage of mental health professionals. The Regional Access Project Foundation funded five mental health internships at the following organizations: Riverside University Health System – Behavioral Health (RUHS – BH), Jewish Family Services, Operation SafeHouse of the Desert and Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine.

Cecilia Lemus and Ana Karen Ortiz are both interning with RUHS – BH. Cecilia graduated from College of the Desert and will be transferring to UC Riverside this upcoming fall as a psychology major. Cecilia has been working on a resource guidebook to direct mental health patients to health services, shelter and food pantries throughout the valley. Ana Karen Ortiz is a recent college graduate from UC Santa Cruz with a double major in sociology and political science. Ana Karen is working on an employee needs assessment to develop a staff training recommendation plan for the various major job classifications at RUHS – BH.

Karla Ochoa attended College of the Desert and transferred to UC San Diego to pursue a major in public health. This summer she is interning with Jewish Family Services working closely with the Mental Health Workforce Alignment Team to address the need for unified language around mental health jobs in the Coachella Valley. She is working on creating a mental health employment guidebook that will form the development of a mental health career pathway that links degrees to employment options in our community.

Sadie Baez is a student at Grand Canyon University majoring in health administration and interning at Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine this summer. She is coordinating a Mental Health First Aid Training Session to better equip non-mental health professionals with skills to assist in mental health crisis situations. She has also developed a patient needs assessment form used to determine the type of referral best suited for each patient.

Diana Ramirez is a pre-medical student at UC Berkeley majoring in applied mathematics. Her summer internship is at Operation SafeHouse of the Desert where she is working on the What’s Up SafeHouse mobile app. The app is intended to provide anonymous 24-7 texting with a certified therapist for people experiencing depression, stress or suicidal thoughts. Diana’s primary objective is to improve the features of the app by including additional resources for foster youth and substance abuse services throughout the Riverside County.

For more information on the summer internship program, contact Anayeli Zavala at or (760) 660.5697.

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