Violence Intervention Program, Los Angeles, CA
This summer, I had the opportunity to work at the Alexis Project and the Violence Intervention Program. The Violence Intervention Program (VIP) is the largest clinic of its type, serving marginalized populations in L.A. At its inception in 1984, the program was focused on serving victims of family violence and sexual assault. Since then, it has expanded to offer programs for adults, the elderly, and children—in addition to having one of the top fetal alcohol spectrum disorder programs in the nation. Through a partnership with L.A. County and USC, VIP is able to reach L.A.’s most vulnerable populations and provide them with gold standard care.
One of the most recent additions to the Violence Intervention Program is the Alexis Project. Honoring the life and legacy of Alexis Arquette, the project serves the LGBTQ+ population by offering comprehensive services, including: gender affirming hormone therapy, pubertal suppression therapy, STD counseling with providers competent in tailoring counseling to LGBTQ+ needs, HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis, assessment for gender affirmation services, individual therapy, group therapy, and case management.
While interning at VIP I worked on four major projects—the Alexis Project weekly newsletter, the Alexis Project Instagram, the new Alexis Project Mentorship Program, and research for the VIP case managers. Working on the weekly newsletter and daily Instagram posts equipped me with new skills and knowledge. Through researching topics such as mental health for the LGBTQ+ community, special hardships for the LGBTQ+ community during Covid-19, LGBTQ+ history, and LGBTQ+ L.A. leaders, I was able to learn about the history of my community and some of the most pressing concerns it faces.
One of the main goals of the Alexis Project going forward is to create emotional support networks for their clients, in addition to providing the mental and medical care they need. I helped create a mentorship program with presentations for mentor interest sessions and new mentor orientation. I worked with my supervisors to think about ways the mentors can connect with and support their mentees during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unable to go into the office, the case management team lost access to their paper lists of resources for clients. In addition, the pandemic created a greater need for housing programs, job assistance, and rental assistance services. I was able to compile a list of resources which the case managers could then give to clients.
My goal to work in LGBTQ+ health was solidified by this internship and I now know that I want to devote my career to providing care to my community. I am looking forward to taking public health courses which will put my first-hand experiences this summer into a broader perspective and I hope to do an independent study in psychology, examining the specific needs of the LGBTQ+ community as they relate to psychopathology. I’m so thankful to the class of 1974 and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for supporting me in this internship and enabling me to gain exposure in the field I want to pursue.