Wellness collaborative benefits K-12 and social work students

Riverside, Calif. (Jan. 24, 2024) — Krista Campbell, a California Baptist University student, interns at two schools in the Jurupa Unified School District for her Master of Social Work field practicum. She conducts group and individual therapy as well as Wellness Wednesdays, which aims to destigmatize mental health. She discovered there is more need than she realized.

“I had a high school student who sobbed for 10 straight minutes in my office and then asked me to hug her because she couldn't remember the last time she received a hug,” Campbell said. “I am beyond grateful to be a part of this program, and I can't wait to graduate and have a full-time job with these kiddos instead of only 24 hours per week.” 

Campbell has the internship through a partnership between CBU and the Riverside County Office of Education (RCOE) as the latter seeks to expand and enhance school-based mental health services for K-12 students.

The partnership is part of the Riverside County Wellness Collaborative, which includes three school districts. The collaborative, which is under RCOE’s Mental Health Initiative, received two grants last year from the U.S. Department of Education, totaling more than $20 million.

Wellness collaborative benefits K-12 and social work students

“It's incredible to get one federal grant, but to get two back-to-to back was just amazing,” said Kathy King, project director at RCOE.

The grants are helping K-12 students get access to mental health services now and laying the groundwork for additional school social workers in the future.



Krista Campbell 

“We're planning to build a multi-tiered system of support — every student in every district will have access to some services, such as anger management, emotional support or individualized counseling,” said Dr. Phil Breitenbucher, CBU’s director of the Office of Field Education in the Division of Social Work.

Various students are benefiting along the way. Twenty-eight CBU students are interning in the three school districts, providing services from classroom presentations to case management and therapy. Each CBU student will be in the school 500-600 hours per academic year and currently receives a $15,500 scholarship.

Along with student scholarships, the portion of grant funds CBU receives goes toward  supervision of the MSW students, training of field instructors/supervisors and development of a Pupil Personnel Services Certificate – School Social Work Program in partnership with the Dr. Bonnie G. Metcalf School of Education.

CBU is building a career pathway so that students leave with the experience, field hours and necessary classes to get certifications and licenses to work in schools, Breitenbucher said. They also will be able to supervise future interns, continuing to build the number of social workers in the schools.

Additionally, high school students learn about the profession. CBU already held an event for these students to come onto CBU’s campus and talk to social workers in the field.

“There are students who really enjoy helping others, who have compassion, and grace for others. The field of social work could be a future career path for them,” King said.

The Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant required a university partner. This grant, along with the School Based Mental Health Grant, focus on expanding diversity in the field.

“I cannot underscore the importance of working with a university partner that shares a similar vision and commitment to student well-being. We are excited about this partnership and how it will expand the behavioral health supports that are available to our students in Riverside County,” said Dr. Edwin Gomez, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools. 

Ongoing funding to pay for the social workers is also important. The grants assist the districts with becoming approved Medi-Cal providers. The districts learn how to develop billing systems, electronic health records and billable services. CBU interns are trained on how to document services in order to bill for them.

“We're the only MSW program in Riverside County, so to be able to partner with the Riverside County Office of Education to develop this workforce is really special to us,” Breitenbucher said.

In the first half of the academic year, the CBU interns served more than 20,000 K-12 students.

Kelsey Hillis, an MSW student, interns with Jurupa Unified School District, helping with group and individual therapy.

Wellness collaborative benefits K-12 and social work students

“My field instructor reminds me that the foundation of what we do as social workers is relationships,” Hillis said. “I’m incredibly appreciative of this opportunity to learn more about how I can be of service to others.”





Kelsey Hillis               

Bianca Sanchez, an MSW student, interns at an elementary school in the Beaumont Unified School District.

Wellness collaborative benefits K-12 and social work students

She conducts individual and group therapy, advises an anti-bullying club and assists the schools counseling staff with activities.

“I want to be able to make a change in the development of children and help them grow healthy physic

ally and mentally, as well as be a support and resource to them and their families,” said Sanchez, who wants to be a school social worker. “I also want to break the negative stigma toward mental health and bring more awareness to the issue.”

Bianca Sanchez

In accordance with Division H, Title V, Section 505 of Public Law 116-260, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, the following information is provided:

Riverside Community Wellness Collaborative

The School Based Mental Health Grant ($14,989,011) finances 75% of the program. Non-governmental sources finance 25% ($3,747,253). The Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant ($5,885,471) finances 100% of the program.


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