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A portion of the New Mexico State University’s School of Social Work students and college faculty member Phillis Newton (far right) are working with La Clinica de Familia. This semester a partnership between NMSU and La Clinica began with 20 social work students working as interns at the agency. (NMSU photo by Tiffany Acosta) SEP16

NMSU School of Social Work partners with La Clinica de Familia to help Community

A lack of mental health providers in the community has allowed for the creation of a new partnership. The New Mexico State University School of Social Work and La Clinica de Familia are now working together to fill the gaps in local mental health services.

The partnership, which started this fall, consists of 30 social work students – 21 master’s and 9 bachelor’s level starting in the spring – working as interns at La Clinica. Olga Cabada, college associate professor and field programs director, worked with Suzan Martinez de Gonzalez and Rosario Olivera from La Clinica to develop the partnership, which includes stipends for the students and a new college faculty position.

Twenty of the students were slated to receive $3,000 stipends for the 2016-2017 academic year until Dona Ana County Health and Human Services became aware of partnership and offered an additional $2,000 per student.

As the new college faculty member, Phillis Newton splits her time between NMSU and La Clinica. She will teach a master’s level course in both the fall and spring, provides all of the field instruction for master’s level students and provides an Integrated Health certificate training for students and staff from La Clinica.

Cabada said she believes this partnership is important for both the community and NMSU students.

“This project feels very significant. We haven’t done anything like this in this area,” she said. “La Clinica really has a lot of gaps in services and they see this as very promising. They see this as helping fill some of those needs in community. They are thinking about building capacity for the future.”

“We need them (students) to have real hands-on experience,” Cabada said. “This is where they integrate the knowledge and the skills that we teach them here in their field. This is where the rubber meets the road.”

Cabada hopes the partnership will lead to students being hired as full-time social workers.

During the internship, students will work at least two days a week, and Cabada noted no two days will be alike.

“There’s not going to be a typical day because there’s going to be so many different services they are going to fill gaps for – depending on the unit they are in,” she said.

Interns will work in areas such as treatment units, group homes, public schools and medical clinics. Their work will range from case management to mental health services in medical settings.

Cabada said second-year students will likely be conducting clinical work such as therapy and counseling that could include having to diagnose and provide treatment plans. And first-year students’ work could include going to group homes to provide case management services for schools.

Cabada said she hopes this collaboration will become a model in New Mexico to allow the state to reimburse agencies for interns.

Author:  Tiffany Acosta – NMSU

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