Social Welfare Students Make Impact with Internships Highlighting students interning at schools, hospitals and non-profits in honor of Social Work Month.


By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

Each March, the social work community celebrates National Social Work Month and some of the amazing work that UCLA Luskin social welfare students and alumni have done. This year, the theme for National Social Work Month is “Social Work Paves the Way for Change,” intended to highlight the people and projects that have been contributing their work to create social change. Below are just a few examples of Luskin social welfare students that have been doing just that with their internships.

Social Welfare student Leena Richman is an intern contributing to the Student Health & Human Services at Berendo Middle school. Student Health & Human Services is a team of professionals that collaborate with schools and families, education service centers and communities to provide physical and mental health services to students in the Los Angeles County.

During her time as an intern at Berendo Middle School, Richman took on a variety of roles from helping with mental health services to handing out fliers to make sure students know about the services they provide.

Richman was one of three interns highlighted in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Student Health and Human Services Newsletter in honor of Social Work Month.

“My experience as a school social work intern thus far has further ignited my passion for working within the school setting,” she said.

The executive director of the Student Health and Human Services Division, Debra Duardo, is a UCLA MSW alumna from 1996. In 2013, she was named the Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year.

Passionate Luskin students have also been doing work in Los Angeles at the Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC).

KYCC has given first year Social Welfare students the opportunity to gain interdisciplinary experiences in areas like gang reduction and youth development by being involved in different programs at the Center. Their responsibilities vary from conducting counseling intakes and providing case management to overseeing homework clubs and assisting with policy research.

Interns are also provided with training from staff members to learn about financial literacy, grant writing and clinical supervision, giving interns a well rounded experience of what it is like to be a social worker in Los Angeles.

Eva Ray, a student intern from the Department of Social Welfare said since each student is assigned an internship outside of their comfort zone, she wasn’t sure what to expect when she started at KYCC.

“As soon as I met the staff I would be working with, though, I felt fortunate to have been placed there because everyone is so collaborative, hard-working and energetic. There is a lot of opportunity to help shape the way the program will run in the future,” she said.

Ray is part of the Prevention and Education unit and is responsible for running a workshop for middle school students about alcohol and marijuana awareness as well as building their communication skills. Since many of the students are young Black and Latino males with behavioral issues and low socioeconomic status, Ray said that she is grateful to be granted the ability to change and adapt the curriculum provided based on each student’s unique needs. Ray has enjoyed helping students gain the skills to combat the challenges that they will face in a society built to oppress them.

“I like that I am…educating (the students) on how their thoughts and feelings inform their behavior, and helping them practice mindful communication and self-reflection so that they can express themselves more effectively,” Ray said. “I enjoy getting to know each student and learning about their lives, and I love the high energy and spirit that comes when working with middle school youth.”

Two first year MSW students, Elsie Silva and Karen Ochoa, celebrated Social Work Month on March 2 by taking part in a resource fair and undergarment drive for community members. Each year, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center organizes the event — the largest resource fair to date with 32 community organizations participating — in order to provide patients and employees with information on legal aid, mental health services, child and senior services, food, financial and employment assistance, and much more.

“It is truly remarkable to witness our community unite and celebrate the field of social work by giving back to our neediest patients,” said Silva. “The social work interns were an integral part of this event by contacting and enlisting the organizations that participated while also helping on the day of the resource fair.”

“These efforts to not only honor social work month, but outreach to some of the most underserved in our city cannot be underestimated,” said Field Education faculty member Gerry Lavina.

With the passion, energy and personal care of social welfare students, the Luskin community is well represented in Los Angeles and has made a profound impact in the lives of all ages for social worker month this March.


UCLA Medical Marijuana Research Team Releases Brief On Dispensaries The team examined the changes in the number and location of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Los Angeles.

By Angel Ibanez
UCLA Luskin Student Writer 

The UCLA Medical Marijuana Research team led by Social Welfare professor Bridget Freisthler recently released a brief that examines the changes in the number and location of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Los Angeles over a seven year time period.

The brief illuminates the prevalence of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. In 2007, Los Angeles had 187 open and operating dispensaries but by 2014 the number had reached 418. This finding could have implications on the monitoring of dispensaries. In 2013 voters passed Proposition D, a city ordinance that would, in part, limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed in the city to 135. Despite this ordinance, Freisthler’s research showed that the city currently has over three times that limit as of 2014. 

The research also showed a shift in distribution of dispensaries across the city, moving “from the San Fernando Valley and East L.A. to the South L.A. and San Pedro areas”.

The map shows the rate of change of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city from 2007 to 2014. While some neighborhoods saw a decrease in dispensaries, the rate of change in others, like South LA and San Pedro, increased over 250 percent. 

According to Freisthler, the shift in dispensary distribution can be attribute to gang activity where in areas like South LA “dispensaries were run out by the gangs. And now gangs are converting parts of their street market to dispensaries.”

The large increase in dispensaries in San Pedro could also be a result of cause and effect.  As dispensaries were being shut down in Long Beach “due to increased enforcement, dispensaries migrated to San Pedro,” Freisthler says. 

The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and led by Dr. Bridget Freisthler, Principal Investigator, with Dr. Paul J. Gruenewald, Co-Investigator; Crystal Thomas, Graduate Student; Alexis Cooke, Graduate Student Researcher; and Alex Creek, Student Researcher.  

The UCLA Medical Marijuana Research team was initiated as a way to examine how the emergence of dispensaries change the ecological landscape of the neighborhoods in which they are located, including changes in crime and dependence. The research team hopes to provide communities with guidance on regulatory processes that may improve neighborhood problems related to dispensaries.


Bridget Freisthler’s Research Shows Correlation Between Alcohol Density And Crime Research examines liquor stores in South LA

Bridget Freisthler

By Angel Ibanez
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

Social Welfare professor Bridget Freisthler was recently mentioned in an article for her expertise on alcohol and abuse. Part of Freisthler’s research is based on substance use and related problems, and child abuse and neglect.

In the article titled, “South LA liquor stores may put residents’ health at risk” published by Intersections South LA, reporter Morgan Greenwald discussed the correlation between liquor stores and the detrimental effects it causes on communities.

South L.A. has one of the highest density of liquor stores with 150 liquor stores and one of the highest car accidents rates involving alcohol in the country. A study in the county showed that an increase in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes correlated with the number of liquor stores in the area.

The article references Professor Freisthler’s research on the effect that access to alcohol has with violence, “places that have higher densities of outlets have increases in violence, child abuse and neglect [and] traffic crashes,” said Freisthler. 

Many organizations in the community are getting involved to decrease the liquor store density in hope of closing stores that contribute to the cycle of crime and addiction.



Contributing to Community and Higher Education Antonia Tu (MSW '73) is giving back to support young Social Welfare students and the community.

By Adeney Zo

After working in social welfare for 10 years and in business the years following, Antonia Tu (MSW ’73) found a new way to give back to the community.

She and her husband, Norman Tu, recently created the Antonia Tu Fellowship in Social Welfare. “I appreciate the opportunities given to me [at Luskin], so I’m trying to do the same thing for students now,” says Tu. “I know that people going into social work are not there to make money, so I want to help them with books and costs.”


Antonia Tu

Kate O’Neal, assistant dean for External Relations, was also involved in the process of creating the fellowship. “When we met, Antonia asked about how she could do something more substantial to give back and support young Social Welfare students,” says O’Neal. “Now every year, a promising student in Social Welfare will receive support in Antonia Tu’s name for their education at UCLA.”

Tu first came to the US as an international student from Hong Kong, going through community college and eventually the UCLA Social Welfare program. Following graduation, she worked in the field of developmental disability for 10 years before starting DCL Corp, a distribution fulfillment business, with her husband in 1982.  She held various executive positions in Human Resources and Operations.  Today DCL is a successful business with locations in Northern and Southern California and Louisville, Kentucky.

“From social work, I learned how to find the right employee and place them in the right position, so the skill set was transferrable,” explains Tu. “I would assess strengths and weaknesses of families and clients, which was later very applicable in business.”

Now retired, the Tu couple give back to their local community through a number of scholarships and donations. They contribute to a scholarship program for Asian high school students with financial need in the Bay Area, as well as a self-help group for the elderly. Tu also sponsors her former community college on an annual basis in addition to the new Social Welfare fellowship program at the Luskin School.

“We’re very active in the community, so I’m still involved in social work, in a way,” says Tu. “This is the beginning of a phase that I hope my children can follow by giving back to the community.”

Todd Franke, Chair of the Social Welfare Department says: “It is extremely gratifying to me to see alumni like Antonia giving back to UCLA Social Welfare, helping our next generation of students to achieve their MSW degree and embark upon rewarding careers in social work.”


Mark Kaplan Says There is Lack of Analysis of the Military as a Social Setting The social welfare professor discussed mental health and suicide prevention for veterans on NPR.



By Alejandra Velarde-Reyes
UCLA Luskin student writer

According to an NPR radio broadcast on Thursday morning, 22 veterans commit suicide every day, or about one every hour. The broadcast invited experts in mental health and veteran services, including social welfare professor Mark Kaplan to address the problem of suicide risk among returning veterans.

In 2007, Kaplan was part of one of the first groundbreaking research studies to reveal that veterans were at higher risk of suicide than the general public, a study that followed thousands of veterans over a 12 year period. Gaining national attention by the media and by congress, the study prompted increased action toward suicide prevention for veterans, Kaplan said in the broadcast.

Since then, new studies have been conducted revealing more detailed information and Kaplan has become more involved in the issue of veteran suicide risk. He expressed concern over gun access, higher risk women in the military, and what factors really contribute to suicide and mental health problems for veterans.

“We’ve assumed many suicides were associated with trauma from deployment but a recent study found that…the risk of suicide among veterans who were deployed and those who were not, were not significantly different,” Kaplan said.

The broadcast explored the reasoning for such evidence, suggesting that it is military service itself rather than exposure to war that causes higher suicide risk.

Though the military attempts to increase resilience in soldiers individually, Kaplan said there is a lack of analysis of the military as a social setting.

“What about the psycho-social environment of the military? What role that may be contributing is pretty much unknown,” Kaplan said. “The military has been resistant to looking at itself as an institution and instead focused on individuals and defines the problem in purely psychiatric and therapeutic ways.”

Kaplan suggested that other factors such as family crisis and financial problems that have little to do with military service precipitate events that lead to suicide.

The segment also addressed the problem of veterans’ access to guns, a central element in suicide risk among veterans.

“There are many veterans who still sleep with a gun under there pillow. This is not uncommon. Many find it difficult, whether they are at risk or not, to part with their guns. We need to do a much better job at probing for gun access and doing something about it,” Kaplan said.


After Academic Career, Professor Writes for Kids Emerita Social Welfare profesor Diane de Anda has established a post-instructional career as an author of bilingual children's books.


When she was younger, Diane de Anda recalls listening to stories from her grandparents about the Mexican revolution and other historical events they had lived through. After working as a professor and researcher in the department of Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin, she decided it was time to go step away from her academic roots and focus on creative writing, submitting short stories and poetry for publication in various literary journals.

In addition, de Anda has become an award-winning author of several works for children, including The Patchwork Garden and A Day Without Sugar. She also writes satirical pieces about current political and social issues that are published in the Humor Times and Satire and Comment.

Before becoming a professor at UCLA, de Anda’s experience as a junior high school teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District inspired her to work with youth, drawing her into the field of social welfare with a focus on issues related to young populations and families, particularly in the Latino community.

“Most people don’t like teaching junior high students, but I adored them,” de Anda said. “They were at a very critical point in their lives. I think if you catch potential problems (at that age), they have a chance for more productive adult lives. Working with youth seemed like a hopeful kind of thing to do.”

Though she enjoys writing creatively, she doesn’t think this has to compromise her academic work. She continues to contribute to the social welfare literature and also spends time discussing research with former doctoral students and faculty members.

“I love research and its intellectual challenge. I invite present and former doctoral students and faculty members to my house where we have dessert and share ideas about research,” de Anda said. “Research is an intellectual endeavor that should not be limited to the classroom; rather, intellectual exchange should be part of your life as a whole.”

During her time as a professor, she taught subjects including cognitive behavior, adolescent behavior, cross cultural awareness and research at the master’s and doctoral levels. De Anda formulated the concept “bicultural socialization,” and her best-noted research focused on adolescent pregnancy and motherhood.

Her passion for social work and working with adolescents has extended beyond her work in academia. De Anda has consulted and volunteered for organizations that provide services to disadvantaged youth, such as the Human Services Association and El Nido Family Centers, among others. Her focus in this work has been on stress and coping, violence prevention, and adolescent pregnancy and STD prevention in Latino youth.

Rosie Ramos, the director of the Pasitos Early Head Start program at the Human Services Association, and a 10-year colleague of De Anda’s, spoke highly of de Anda’s dedication to the subject.

“She is a very hard working and genuine person, very dedicated and most caring about what happens to teens and pregnant mothers, “ Ramos said. “I have a great deal of respect for her and the work that she does.”

De Anda said what she enjoyed most during her time as a professor at UCLA was interacting with her students. After retirement, she has kept in touch with many former doctoral students, advising and encouraging them to publish their own research.

“I find speaking with students the most rewarding both personally and intellectually. They were always challenging and interactive in my classes,” she said.

Susan Snyder was a student in de Anda’s courses on cultural competence and cognitive behavior theory. She was part of Snyder’s dissertation committee and helped her edit her manuscripts.

“Dr. de Anda provided the most feedback I have ever received on papers,” Snyder said. “Even though my dissertation was over 100 pages, she provided comprehensive feedback on each page.

“She has a way of teaching that energizes students and makes learning engaging, bringing energy and passion in a way that few can master,” Snyder added.

Though Snyder said de Anda’s courses were the most difficult she had, she said her impact in academic life and the larger community inspired Snyder to pursue a career in academia.

“Dr. de Anda is compassionate, generous and tireless. She is incredibly brilliant and able to analyze complex problems with ease. She also is a phenomenal writer,” Snyder said. “More than anything Dr. de Anda believes in ensuring that each person is treated with dignity and respect. She is a stalwart advocate of social justice.”

In the future, de Anda said she hopes to continue working with doctoral students at UCLA, helping them with their writing as well as publishing her own collection of short stories for adults and the additional children’s books she has written, including a collection of 80 animal limericks and a book of nonsense poems for young boys.

Jorja Leap’s Gang Expertise Tapped by Media The Social Welfare professor has been quoted extensively about gang related trends and behavior.


By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
UCLA Luskin student writer 

Social Welfare professor, Jorja Leap has recently gained national media attention for her expertise in gangs and criminal justice. Her research is based on observation of gangs and communities affected by gang activity with the purpose of informing policymakers.

Leap’s work and findings have been cited in articles about different criminal trends in Los Angeles and on a national level, such as the decline in homicides in LA, homicides of Latino men, and their relationship to gang activity.

recent article in the Los Angeles Daily News reported that homicides in Los Angeles have declined from 1,231 in 2002 to below 700 in 2010. According to the article several sociologists and police workers attribute the decline to gang intervention programs and more effective policing and legislature, but Leap said the problem has not necessarily been solved.

Instead, a police crackdown in Los Angeles has moved gang activity from LA to economically depressed areas such as the Inland Empire and Las Vegas, where they are less impeded, she said in the article.

Another article by the LA Daily News titled “ Homicides of young Latino men twice as likely to go unsolved in LA county, analysis shows,” focused on the reasons why homicides of Black and Latino populations are not only higher but less likely to be solved.

Leap attributed that discrepancy to Black and Latino men living in areas that are more high in crime and gang activity, where illegal weapons are more accessible. She also said that witnesses’ fear of retaliation if they speak may contribute the the cases remaining unsolved.

Professor Leap was also quoted in a Detroit News article about a former motorcycle gang member currently on trial for a series of crimes and murders across the country. She offered insight into the lifestyle of motorcycle gang members and the criminal justice process.


“You Can Run But You Can’t Hide”

01907409 By Adeney Zo
UCLA Luskin student writer 

Professor Laura Abrams, chair of the social welfare doctoral program, and PhD alumna Diane Terry recently published an article in the Children and Youth Services Review titled, “You can run but you can’t hide”: How formerly incarcerated young men navigate neighborhood risks.”

This qualitative study offers a window into the lives of formerly incarcerated youth, focusing on the struggles they encounter while transitioning out of the incarceration system and into adulthood.

In light of the viral nationwide reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown and subsequent events, this article addresses very relevant issues of racial disparity in the criminal justice system and police violence by turning to a more personal, narrative focus.

Seventeen formerly incarcerated young men were interviewed about their methods for navigating everyday risks, a complex survival strategy which balances obligation to gang brothers, avoiding of re-incarceration, and steering away from dangerous areas and situations. Through analyzing how formerly incarcerated youth develop strategies for safety and survival into adulthood, this study may provide a stepping stone to solving the issues of poverty, racial tensions, and police brutality which are currently the center of debate and discussion in America.

David Cohen Offers Policy Suggestions for Protecting Foster Youth Social Welfare professor explains how to stem the tide of psychotropic drug prescriptions to children in foster care.


In November, UCLA Luskin Professor David Cohen was quoted in an ongoing investigative series by the San Jose Mercury News and Bay Area News Group on psychiatric drugs and foster youth.

In the third reported piece in the investigation titled “The Rx Alliance That Drugs Our Kids,” the San Jose Mercury News reveals that nearly 1 of every 4 adolescents in California’s foster care system are prescribed psychiatric drugs to control their behavior. That is more than three times the rate for adolescents nationwide. Often, the drugs that are prescribed are untested or not approved for children.

The investigation also showcased the relationship between the foster care prescribers and pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies are spending millions of dollars to influence physicians who prescribe psychiatric medications to California children in foster care. The article explains that foster care prescribers earn nearly twice as much than the typical California doctor, with the highest paid doctors ranging from child psychiatrists to researchers at universities. The bulk of the payments fund drug company-sponsored research.

Professor Cohen noted that this incentive from pharmaceutical companies may be a motivating factor for some doctors.

“These figures suggest these doctors are not looking out primarily for the kids’ interests…but are looking out for their financial interests, and we should all be wary,” he said.

“The experimentation, the drug cocktails, the first-line drugging typically starts with the group that’s the least protected — and foster kids are at the bottom of the ladder in our society and so it’s easier to do this to them.”

Last week, as a follow-up to this article, Cohen offered some policy suggestions in California Healthline, for how to deal with the situation.

His policy proposals are:

1. The Department of Social Services should publish every quarter the percentage of children in foster care and other residential settings under state care who receive one or more prescriptions for psychotropic drugs. This publicly funded aggregated data has obvious public health relevance and no confidentiality concerns exist.

2. Any payment to a physician from a drug company is a payment for good services rendered (i.e., increasing a company’s revenues by enticing physicians to write prescriptions to foster children publicly reimbursed through Medicaid). Consumer bureaus should develop lists of physicians who do not accept funding of any kind from pharmaceutical companies. The medical licensing board should require physicians to display prominent signs in their waiting rooms informing patients about their drug industry funding.

 3. Alaska attorney Jim Gottstein has argued that cocktails of antipsychotics for behavior problems of children are prescriptions for non-medically indicated reasons and thus constitute false claims for Medicaid reimbursement according its own rules. If so, California Medi-Cal might just wish to obey federal law: screen those prescriptions properly and refuse to reimburse them (and kindly notify prescribers that they are breaking the law).

4. The executives of pharmaceutical companies found to have engaged in illegal marketing of their products should be held criminally responsible rather than their companies just paying fines as the cost of doing business (like $10.4 billion in 74 court judgments and settlements between 2010 and 2012).

5. Child welfare workers and juvenile court judges have an ethical duty to inform themselves responsibly about the drugs they encourage and sometimes compel non-consenting children to take. The drug industry floods the market with studies purporting to show short-term improvement in symptoms while it studiously under-documents harms and long-term consequences. Perhaps these officials should be held responsible when things go wrong, not just given a free pass because they don’t prescribe.

6. A stable foster placement matters for a child’s well-being, thus child welfare workers may understandably refer a child for a medication evaluation in order to avoid interrupting the placement. But psychological and behavioral instabilities shown by maltreated or neglected children are normal reactions to adversity, not mental illnesses to medicalize. A severe or delayed reaction to maltreatment does not automatically justify a prescription; it requires even more personal, individual attention given to a child.


Awards: Luskin alumna and student recognized for their work Megan Holmes (MSW '08) receives grant money for research in child welfare and success.

By Angel Ibanez
UCLA Luskin student writer 

A Luskin alumna and current doctoral student have each recently been awarded prestigious awards for research and demonstration of good work.

Megan Holmes MSW ’08, PhD ’12 was awarded a $200,000 federal grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Fellowships for Research in Child Maltreatment. Currently an assistant professor of Social Work at Case Western Reserve, Holmes is lead investigator of a study on why some children thrive despite being abused and witnessing violence in the home.

As part of a the grant, Holmes will focus on how witnessing domestic violence in the home impacts the academic performance from preschool to middle school. She believes the research could potentially help victims of abuse and neglect by learning why some children are more resilient to it and says such mistreatment is a prevalent public health concern.

Urban Planning doctoral student Anne Brown is the recipient of a WTS-OC graduate scholarship.

The prestigious scholarship is awarded by the Orange County chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) whose mission is to build the future of transportation through the global advancement of women.

The scholarship recognizes the potential contributions of students and encourages bright new professionals to undertake careers in the area of transportation.

The scholarship will be presented at the WTS-OC Annual Awards Gala on Thursday, December 4, 2014.