Tamara Fuerst


2017 recipient of the Audrey J. Harris Summer Internship Award


Interned with the Alabama Department of Mental Health

As a recipient, I deeply appreciate the recognition and honor to receive the award. The scholarship helped me achieve my 300 hour criminal justice internship at the Alabama Department of Mental Health in goals to receive my BA in psychology and social welfare along with the criminal justice certificate in December 2017.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with the Office of Deaf Services at the Alabama Mental Health Department. The Office of Deaf Services’ primary goal is to provide recovery-based services that support consumers to live independently, while respecting their individual choice and to ensure that mental health and substance abuse providers can provide culturally affirmative services to deaf and hard of hearing consumers. I had the rare opportunity to experience firsthand observing the deaf therapists and psychologist providing direct services to the deaf community. Also, I had the chance to visit some group homes and mental and forensic hospitals that are affiliated with the Office of Deaf Services to interact with patients and supervisors in the environment of full access in sign language.

Interning at the Alabama Mental Health had given me such valuable experience that I would not have been able to get anywhere else. The Office of Deaf Services is one of three deaf mental health services operating as one stop centers in the United States. Working with the Office of Deaf Services allowed me to be familiar with issues that I never would thought I would be able to do as an undergrad. My supervisor gave me the opportunity to observe subcommittee mental illness and substance abuse meetings about refining the standards and see where some administrative codes need to include Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) for the deaf and hard of hearing community. I was able to get involved in clinical meetings to see how the clinicians work together and to understand from the criminal justice’s perspectives.

These experiences gave me a valuable understanding of how the Office of Deaf Services runs and functions. This summer has really reinforced my desire to pursue my master’s degree so that I can continue this type of work as a social worker in my desire to be able to help the deaf and hard of hearing and hearing providers to collaborate in mental health programs to allow deaf professionals, such as myself, to be able to work in hearing settings in order to provide direct and effective service.

Again, I am extremely honored to receive the Audrey J. Harris award. This award helped relieve some of the financial burden of the summer and allowed me to fully commit and to get the most out of my internship. I am so grateful that the family of Audrey J. Harris gave me and others the opportunity for hands-on experience during our internships.