The City and County of San Francisco and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) announced CHANGE SF, a new program that will provide paid work-based learning opportunities for youth and young adults in the fields of mental and behavioral health and psychiatry. UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences will place 8 to 10 youth and/or young adults ages 13 to 24 each academic year in internships that will provide hands-on experience in behavioral and mental health across a wide range of disciplines, including psychiatry, cognitive and learning disorders, social work, trauma recovery, substance use, and psychology.
“Representation is critical across all sectors of healthcare, but especially mental and behavioral health,” said Mayor Breed. “Too many of our young people are left out of the healthcare profession because they do not have the skills, education, and exposure at an early age to opportunities that can transform their lives. We are working to end that. CHANGE SF will connect youth in neighborhoods and communities that have historically lacked opportunity to careers right here in San Francisco.”
As part of the program, participants will be matched with a UCSF staff or faculty member for one-on-one mentorship in addition to an internship experience. Interns will have the opportunity to attend UCSF’s Grand Rounds lecture series, research labs and career panels; conduct informational interviews with staff and faculty; and observe consultations to community-based organizations. Interns will also gain first-hand experience in science communication and data visualization, skills that are valuable for anyone pursuing a career in healthcare research.
“At a time when our collective mental health has been taxed and our resilience tested, it is more important than ever to prepare the next generation of providers in mental health, and inspire youth to pursue the field, “said Matthew State, MD, PhD, chair of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences and director of the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. “We’re excited to work with and learn from these bright young members of our community.”
“CHANGE SF is an expansive medical exploration internship allowing our San Francisco youth to have strategic and inclusive engagement within multiple aspects of Behavioral Science as well as Community Health,” said Nicole Elmore, Opportunities for All Senior Fellow and CHANGE SF coordinator. CHANGE SF stands for Community Health Advanced by Next Generation Efforts in San Francisco.
San Francisco’s Opportunities for All initiative, launched in the summer of 2019, provides youth and young adults ages 13 to 24, particularly from low-income families or communities that have long faced barriers to economic inclusion, with paid, work-based learning opportunities. The goal of the initiative is to not only connect young people with jobs, but more broadly to provide jobs in high-opportunity industries including healthcare, tech, finance, and more, as well as to get them started on the pathway to long-term success with lifelong mentorships. Since its inception, more than 4,500 youth have participated in Opportunities for All.
“CHANGE SF offers young people a chance to build their skills and networks while preparing for their futures,” said Sheryl Evans Davis, EdD, Executive Director, San Francisco Human Rights Commission. “The initiative also provides an opportunity to address economic and health disparities through paid work-based learning activities that aim to build pipelines and connect diverse communities with resources and information on mental and behavioral health.”
Data show that more than 47% of adults with serious mental illness perceive an unmet need for mental health services, demonstrating an imperative to train more mental and behavioral healthcare professionals. Additionally, Black, Latino and Asian communities are disproportionately impacted by mental and behavioral health disorders, but face greater disparities within the healthcare system due to discrimination from primarily white healthcare providers, lack of access to quality healthcare, and differences in insurance coverage. The CHANGE SF program aims not only to train more young people to become healthcare professionals, but to focus on hiring youth of color to remove the stigma around mental and behavioral health in communities of color and to create and implement culturally competent healthcare programs in these fields.
“Young people are our greatest compass in identifying needs and opportunities for workforce development, racial and health equity, and the elimination of stigma about mental illness,” said Marina Tolou-Shams, PhD, a professor in UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences who is leading the new program. “By mentoring and partnering with local youth, we can build a mental health workforce that is truly reflective of and responsive to our community.”
The first cohort of CHANGE SF interns will begin their internships in mid-November. Interns will be able to work across all UCSF campus locations, including Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital & Trauma Center, Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, and the UCSF-UC Berkeley Schwab Dyslexia and Cognitive Diversity Center.
This upcoming cohort has been selected from this year’s Opportunities for All applicants. To learn more visit: www.opps4allsf.org/.