Paid Internship Experience - a BSAS Workforce Development Pilot Program

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Addiction Services (DPH BSAS) has used a portion of enhanced federal funding* to award BSAS Paid Internship Experience (PIE) Workforce Development grants to eight SUD treatment programs for training, recruitment, and retention practices with a special focus on increasing both workforce diversity and cultural proficiency in service delivery. The two-year grant period began in March, 2023 and ends in March, 2025.

The eight BSAS PIE Workforce Development Grantees include: AIDS Project WorcesterChoices, Inc.; Edwina Martin House, Family and Community Resources, Father’s Uplift, Inc., High Point & Affiliated Organizations, Lowell House, Inc., and Mental Health Association.  

As of April 30, 2024, 116 interns had enrolled in the program. Of that group, 39 interns have completed a PIE program, and a little over half (21 interns) have been hired by either the host agency or an affiliated organization. Expected degrees ranged from Associates to Doctoral level, as well as various certificates and licenses.

The following demographic data is based on 46 completed intern surveys.

  • AGE: Interns ranged in age from 18-64 years old. 37% were 18–24, 26% were 25-34, 22% were 35-44, and the remaining interns were 45-64 years old.
  • GENDER IDENTITY: 31 female; 13 male; 1 non-binary/gender queer/not exclusively male or female; 1 transgender; and 1 questioning/not sure.  
  • RACE/ETHNICITY: 57% White; 31% Black; 14% Asian; 12% Hispanic/Latinx; 0.5% American Indian/Alaska Native. Respondents could choose multiple racial categories.
  • SEXUAL ORIENTATION (N=45): 76% identified as straight or heterosexual, 13% identified as bisexual and/or pansexual, 11% identified as gay or lesbian.  
  • RECOVERY STATUS: 48% identified as being in mental health and/or substance use recovery.
  • DISABILITY STATUS: Interns that responded to this question reported experiencing one or more of the following: a chronic medical condition; depression; physical disabilities; dyslexia; fibromyalgia; ADD; and Autism.

Age and Life Stage

  • 56% of responding interns reported serving adults.
  • 50% served transition age youth/young adults.
  • 35% served middle and high school youth.
  • 22% served families.
  • Fewer than 6 reported serving couples, elementary age children, or very young children.


Presenting Challenges

  • 80% of responding interns reported serving a population with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.
  • 74% served individuals coping with stressful situations.
  • 65% served those with serious addictions and/or in need of help for anxiety and/or depression.
  • 35% served a population with serious mental illness.

Future in Behavioral Health

Interns are gaining a variety of valuable skills and experiences in the BSAS PIE programs. Additionally, interns expressed a high level of interest in continuing to work in the field of behavioral health with a variety of populations, including those served by behavioral health organizations that serve people on Medicaid or are uninsured, individuals with serious mental illness, people with substance use disorders, those in substance use disorder recovery, and individuals with both mental health and substance use disorders.

A total of 93% agreed or strongly agreed that the internship was valuable, while the remaining 7% were neutral. 

PIE program interns expressed their thoughts on the experience: 

  • "This internship is amazing and is changing my life for the better in many ways."
  • "The stipend has made the difference between solvency and homelessness for me, it kept a roof over my head."
  • "I am so thankful that I got to have any food that was provided at the office and during events! They definitely kept me fed, especially on days when I did not have anything to eat."
  • "My expectations were met and definitely exceeded. I am so thankful to have such a positive experience with my support groups, office staff, managers, and to have been blessed with a full-time role consideration."
  • "The internship met and went beyond what I hoped for. The experience of working directly with people and focusing on making care fair and equal was very important for me. It confirmed my desire to work in this field."
  • "I have had the pleasure of spearheading the revival and management of [Group Name], our adult transgender and gender diverse support group. This is the first time I've really had the chance to lead a program, of course with the guidance of a supervisor, but I've learned immensely in my personal and professional skills."
  • "The internship has given me more understanding of the severe challenges BIP0C experiences in the counseling world, and it has further energized me to be an advocate for this population."

*In 2021, Massachusetts received enhanced federal funding to support Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) under Section 9817 of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) has used part of that funding to create several grant programs, one of which was a HCBS and Human Services Workforce Grant. The HCBS and Human Services Workforce Grant totals $42.5M in grant funding for training, recruiting, or retaining the HCBS and human services workforce. The grant supports direct care staff, nurses, behavioral health staff, community health workers (CHWs), or long-term service and support staff.