Page 2 - Heart of Hoag December 2016
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As manager of Hoag’s Mental Health Center, Rocio Valencia Vega makes good use of her natural ability to engage people. She also helps connect them with other vital services available at the Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living.
Rocio Valencia Vega Works to Remove the
Stigma of Mental Health Issues
Guided by her heart and passion, Vega uses her life to help improve the quality of other people’s lives.
Rocio Valencia Vega, LCSW, pours her heart into her job – and each act of service and kindness re ects her commitment to those who turn to Hoag for help with their mental health issues.
And every day, with each patient she cares for, she is reminded of the important role her family played in her career ... and in her life. With their support she was the  rst member of her family to graduate from college.
Vega is certain that, without the love and guidance she received from her parents and older sisters, she likely would not be enjoying her career as manager of the Mental Health Center at the Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living.
Vega grew up in Santa Ana and graduated from Century High School. Admittedly, she “wasn’t an A student” and had no clear life goals. But at her sisters’ insistence, she attended junior college full time and, somewhat to her surprise, “started to really like school. I explored lots of different things and started talking to counselors. I went to Cal State Fullerton and took classes in the Human Services Program. I discovered I loved social work.”
Vega’s  rst job out of college was working for the Council on Aging – Southern California. As a Care Manager, she worked primarily with Spanish- speaking elderly residents. Vega soon discovered she had a natural talent for engaging people and helping connect them with other community service organizations.
Above all else, Vega wanted to use her life to help improve the quality of other people’s lives. Knowing there was “more learning to do,” she applied and was accepted to USC, where she received her master’s degree in Social Work. She realized in graduate school that her true ambition was a career in therapy and counseling.
With that goal guiding her, she served her internship at the Hoag Community Health Department, under the tutelage of Michaell Rose, LCSW, director of
Hoag’s Community Programs. That was in 2003, and Vega has been there ever since – and, to Vega’s delight, Rose remains her boss. “I loved my internship and our leader, Michaell,” Vega says. “She makes the job a pleasure. She always has everybody’s well-being in mind in everything she does.”
Hoag’s Mental Health Center, partially funded by philanthropy, is staffed by seven social workers and three social-worker assistants. The team provides free or low-cost psychotherapy services for the community. They primarily service those with mild to moderate conditions. Vega says the tight-knit team shares the mission of breaking social stigmas regarding mental health, and helping patients understand that the challenges they face are common – and that Hoag has solutions for them.
“We help our patients in every way possible, including connecting them with other services offered at the Melinda Hoag Smith Center
for Healthy Living, like yoga, mindfulness classes, drumming, Zumba and social services. They notice our efforts, and they’re very grateful,” says Vega.
Vega says the Mental Health Center team members measure their successes by their clinical outcomes and their engagement with the local community. She strives to help people gain hope and understanding of their own strengths and abilities.
Guided by her heart – and ever mindful of the loving support she received from her family – Vega says she doesn’t consider her work a job. “It’s my passion,” she says ... an attitude that is re ected in everything she does on behalf of those who turn to Hoag for help with their mental health issues.

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