(3) Nearing the end of my internship

My internship experience has shown me the importance of humility, cooperation, and self-care. The Riverside Behavioral Health Community Partners (BH CP) team is comprised of care coordinators who provide resources and support for members.  This may mean finding resources (food, mental/physical health, housing, etc.), assisting a member with support programs (disability, SNAP, housing, etc.), or something else entirely. The job can at times require extensive research to finding specific bits of information, like searching for free and low-cost moving resources or obtaining government benefits. I’ve realized that with the wide variety of responsibilities that a social service worker my take on, it’s vital to give oneself patience and understanding, remembering that no person knows everything. Asking for help, taking an opportunity to learn further, or even learning for the first time, are all needed moments for such a job.

Along with a willingness to put in work for what you don’t know is the importance of asking for help. Care coordinators within the BH CP team use one another as resources. Maybe someone is looking for a service in which another coordinator has already found valuable information. This saves the person both a lot of time and work, and builds trust between colleagues.

Source: goodtherapy.org

Although my internship was primarily remote, the team utilized creative strategies to help them remain engaged with one another and build team cohesion. Technology and the new normal of working from home makes it much easier to connect in different ways. Group check-ins allowed for a short pause to see how colleagues were doing, with light activities things like yoga or taking a walk. These short group meetings were a fraction of the weekly schedule, yet vital for maintaining the wellbeing of direct care workers. To best serve the member, a provider needs to take care of their own mental, emotional, and physical health.

As a part of the team, I created moving guides to help support members and care coordinators during a change of address, I updated patient records, I formed care plans, and more. Overall, I wanted to make the jobs of the care coordinators easier, even in a small way. People in these positions work incredibly hard, so getting a little off their plate matters.

As I near the end of my internship, I’ve proud to say I’ve grown more confident in my advocacy skills and ability to try new things. For someone else wanting to pursue an internship or career in the field of social services, I would suggest taking some time to think about what you want out of the experience/position. Would you like to work in direct-care services, on the administrative or policy side, or somewhere in between? Developing this sense can allow you to come into the interview prepared. Just as the interviewer will ask you questions, so too should you ask them about how they plan to utilize you at their company. With open communication, this hopefully increases the chances that the organization and the individual both feel they benefited from the experience.

(2) Discrimination in Medical Care and Social Services

Through classes at Brandeis University, I have gained a greater understanding of the discrimination faced by people with disabilities and/or people of color in obtaining medical care and social services. Often times, accessing a doctor free of charge, getting needed medical equipment, or receiving government benefits are extremely difficult for people to access. Supplemental Security Income, which benefits people with disabilities who have limited income or resources, unemployment benefits, and care work—defined as care processes in the services of others done by family, kin or a professional—are just some of the many examples of the services that people need but must fight to obtain.


Care work, for example, is a difficult job that takes many forms and is often devalued and goes unpaid. This could be an adult caring for their parent, a parent caring for their adult child with developmental disabilities, looking over someone else’s children, and so much more. People do the work because they love and care for the person, and what they are doing is labor. The two are not mutually exclusive. Yet many people who perform care work do so without financial compensation, which is further complicated because this work tends to fall on the shoulders of women and particularly women of color. There are ways for people to get paid for care work; however, the policies include stipulations making it difficult for folks to actually obtain the benefits.

In exciting news, a member at Riverside Community Care was actually able to receive monetary compensation for their care work. This is a great accomplishment and one that is not easy. This truly shows the persistence of the member and care coordinator because, in order to plead their case, they must have been extremely prepared.


Hearing goods news such as this reminds me of the importance of the work I do as a member of the team. My internship is involved with the Behavioral Health Community Partners program, which provides care management and coordination to adults with significant behavioral health needs. I have worked on tasks like updating patient records to make sure new care team members are added and phone numbers are up to date. While this can be a tedious task, the member mentioned above serves as a great example for why this work is needed. It is essential to have the correct information to best support the member. Care coordinators need the correct information to know who is on this member’s care team (i.e., their nurse, PCP, psychiatrist, etc.). Then, not only do they need the care team names, but care coordinators also need accurate phone numbers to contact the care team in support of the member. Updated records help members and care coordinators to apply for government benefits and services—a long, detailed process that requires accurate information. The little things really do matter.

(1) Riverside Community Care

Source: https://www.facebook.com/RiversideCommunityCare

Riverside Community Care provides individualized behavioral health and social services in a community-based setting. This organization respects individual consumers and believes accessible, quality care should be available to all. Riverside is a community-based non-profit organization, serving more than 40,000 people a year in Massachusetts. The non-profit offers a wide range of care, including behavioral health services and services for people with developmental disabilities.

I work as an intern within Riverside’s Behavioral Health Community Partners (BH CP) team, a program that provides care management and coordination for eligible adults who are enrolled in a MassHealth ACO (Accountable Care Organizations) or MCO (Managed Care Organization) and have significant behavioral health needs. BH CP aims to serve vulnerable populations and connect enrollees with services in their own community. Some of the consumers need the support of BH CP to know what care options are available to them and how to go about accessing these. A care coordinator is assigned to the member and meets the consumer where they are. The care coordinator works with the enrollee to build confidence and independence in navigating the healthcare system and social services. Together, they create a care plan that helps connect enrollees to resources in their community and provides support for people who may face challenges on multiple fronts such as health, food, and medication.

By now, I have worked as an intern within the BH CP team for about three weeks. Besides orientation, of course, I have been working on a project to create a moving guide that is catered to our members’ needs. Moving homes alone is a huge undertaking for anyone. For people without the financial means or friends and family support, moving can be made even more difficult. The document doesn’t solve everything, but it does try to make the moving process a little easier. Not only does the moving guide help members, it is also a resource for care coordinators on the BH CP team. Unfortunately, finding resources for moving expenses is not as easy as one might think. By having the information in one place, care coordinators can more easily access what they need and, in turn, support enrollees.

Before my internship started, I identified two goals for myself. First, I want to gain an understanding of state agencies and programs (DMH, Social Security, MassHealth, etc). As someone interested in behavioral health and health equity, I believe it is vital to grasp the intricacies of the U.S. health care system and how this impacts patient care. Second, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from experienced professionals in the field of social work. I feel very fortunate to have the chance to observe, ask questions, and receive help when I am unsure. Having now started my internship, I still really like the goals I chose for myself. I’m grateful for my experiences so far and I’m looking forward to continuing this work.