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Unique Program at South Coast Hospital Giving Interns With Developmental Disabilities Job Experience

Interns in program giving people with developmental disabilities sort mail, packages at Oxnard Hospital

A unique program on the South Coast is helping people with developmental disabilities get skills that may lead to a job and more self-sufficiency.

Non-profit organization Pathpoint's "Project Search," a year-long internship program at a local hospital, helps members learn everything from food services to ER setup.

Deep inside of Dignity Health’s St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, a woman we're calling M.E. is at work sorting mail in the receiving and shipping area of the huge hospital.

M.E. is one of a dozen young men and women with developmental disabilities currently doing an internship at the Oxnard hospital, getting skills and experience which will hopefully lead to a job.

Marielle Defazio is the Chief Operations Officer for Pathpoint, the Santa Barbara based non-profit which helps people with disabilities on the Central and South Coasts move towards self-sufficiency. Defazio says the program at St. John’s is the only one of its type in the region.

The program is in its second year at the hospital. Out of the first group of six interns, five of them turned the experience and references into paying jobs.

The rotation through different types of jobs at the hospital gives them a wide range of exposure to career areas like areas from ER setup to food services.

Bree Barry is Pathpoint’s Project Search Program Coordinator at the hospital. She says in addition to the hands-on experience, the interns also take a daily class at the hospital intended to help them improve their employability.

M.E. says she loves being in the program, and that she's not only learning, but feels like she's making a difference.

Pathpoint officials are hoping this program will turn out to be a big door opener for those with disabilities in the region. They hope to expand it to other places like universities, and hotels, to help even more people.

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