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Psychology graduate program alumnae Elizabeth Ruiz '11 MS, left, and Arisela Flores '12 MS are recipients of the state's MFT Educational State Stipend program to work in public mental health in low-income communities. Not pictured is Mount recipient Yesica Helguera '12 MS.

Psychology Grad Students Earn Stipends to Aid LA's Public Mental Health Clients

May 7, 2012 -- Mount psychology alumnae Elizabeth Ruiz ’11 MS, Arisela Flores ’12 MS and Yesica Helguera '12 MS have each been awarded $18,500 from California's MFT Educational State Stipend Program, which is designed to recruit top graduates into public mental health jobs serving ethnically-diverse and low-income residents.

Ruiz, Flores and Helguera are among 20 students to receive the stipends this year from Los Angeles County in a program funded by the 2005 Mental Health Services Act of California. The program aims to transform the state’s public mental health delivery in part with mental health professionals dedicated to community service.

Students competing for a stipend complete an application that explains how their personal experiences meet the objectives to serve disadvantaged communities with a focus on the culturally-diverse needs of people in public mental health care. More than 200 students applied for the 2011-2012 stipend cycle in the county, and 20 stipends were awarded.

“As a female, first generation Mexican-American who speaks Spanish and continues to live in a predominantly Latino community, I know that my services are extremely needed in communities similar to the one I grew up in,” Ruiz wrote in her application essay. “I will continue to serve those underserved communities and provide much-needed therapeutic services by working with families and educating them about mental illness.”

Flores says she was spurred to pursue work in public mental health after learning about a lack of bilingual therapists for Latinos. “My main interest in pursuing this career is to help the minority communities rid their negative stigma about the mental health field, which can have negative consequences on the individual,” she wrote in her stipend application.

Helguera looks forward to helping Spanish-speakers gain access to quality mental health programs. "When clients are able to express how they feel, they certainly start to develop a better relationship with the therapist," Helguera says. "Being able to offer them the help needed to guide them to achieve their goals as a family or individual is essential."

For more on the graduate psychology program at MSMU, click here.

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