WHY THIS MATTERS: In a move to further strengthen and support California’s health care workforce, these awards will support the mentorship of health care professionals early in their careers, improving access to behavioral health services, particularly in underserved communities throughout the state.

SACRAMENTO—Today California, through the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), awarded more than $17 million to 39 nonprofit providers and tribal organizations in underserved areas to expand their in-house behavioral health workforce. Through the DHCS’ Mentored Internship Programs, each entity will receive up to $500,000 to enhance and build their behavioral health substance use disorder workforce, focusing on resources to expand prevention, treatment, and recovery skills for those working with individuals with or at risk of developing an opioid use disorder.

The Mentored Internship Program will enhance the professional development of diverse students, grow the future behavioral health workforce with comprehensive training to help mitigate the opioid crisis.

“California needs more health care workers and through this mentorship program, we are supporting young professionals at the start of their careers and equipping them with the skills needed to help tackle the opioid crisis,” said Governor Newsom. “The grants going out today will help ensure that our health care workforce better reflects the communities they serve, and help expand access to critical behavioral health services for all Californians.”

“Today’s awards support the Administration’s ongoing commitment to address the opioid epidemic,” said DHCS Director Baass. “The Department of Health Care Services is working with community partners throughout the state to build a robust workforce of behavioral health professionals to serve California’s many diverse communities.”

Today’s awards to organizations in underserved and diverse communities are part of the Behavioral Health Workforce Development initiative, funded by Opioid Settlement Funds through December 31, 2024. To date, 163 provider organizations have received funding under the Mentor Internship Programs.


  • “I’m happy to report that we have retained as employees 100 percent of our Mentored Internship Program interns,” said Dr. Myra Saltoun, Director of Clinical Training at current grantee CASA Pacifica, a provider of mental health services in Ventura County serving at-risk children and their families. “The one-on-one mentorship promotes a comfort zone in which interns can ask questions and seek guidance. Interns are exposed to a variety of mental health professions while in the program, and by the time they complete the internship, they have found an area or two about which they are passionate. They complete the program feeling more confident and ready to pursue higher education. Our mentors are also enjoying the opportunity to mentor students and feel their fresh ideas and enthusiasm enrich our program and client lives. We have established stronger relationships with our educational partners that will last beyond the funding of this grant.”
  • “I had the pleasure of working with RCS as an intern during graduate school. Throughout my internship, I gained valuable skills and knowledge. The experience of my internship made me feel supported, valued, and empowered as a clinician,” said Maritsa Garcia Rendon, who was hired as a full-time clinical counselor by grantee Rebekah Children’s Services (RCS), a mental health provider in Santa Clara County. After completing the Mentored Internship Program, she noted that the internship experience led her to choosing a full-time position with RCS.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS: The Mentored Internship Program was established in 2022 in response to a variety of California-specific behavioral health workforce needs assessments and recommendations that showed a shortage of professionals across the spectrum of behavioral health careers. This program is part of California’s broader efforts to expand the State’s behavioral health workforce through the Behavioral Health Workforce Development initiative, which seeks to improve access to behavioral health services across the state, and to provide opportunities for students 18 years of age and older and at multiple stages of their education to gain practical on-the-job experience. Students in such fields as social work, public health, and psychology are encouraged to serve as interns, as are students pursuing associate degrees at community colleges, undergraduate and graduate students, and students or recent graduates of high school or alternative high school.

BIGGER PICTURE: Governor Gavin Newsom has dedicated more than $1 billion in funding to fight the opioid crisis by removing opioids from the streets, providing resources to California communities in need, and increasing education and awareness to prevent opioid addiction and death. DHCS is investing more than $450 million in various opioid prevention and treatment grant activities in fiscal year 2022-23.

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