Our umbrella organization, Special Service for Groups, Inc. (SSG) began during World War II as a result of the Los Angeles “zoot suit riots.” SSG’s first years offered outreach services to self-identified members of gangs in Los Angeles. In 1952, after eight years of operating programs for teenagers, Special Service for Groups incorporated.
In 1975, the Occupational Therapy Training Program (OTTP) in Los Angeles was developed by a master’s level occupational therapy student, Cindy Paulson, from the University of Southern California (USC). Cindy’s program development focused on teaching youth involved in the juvenile justice system pre-vocational and healthy coping skills with a ten-week curriculum, culminating in the enrollment in a vocational program at Southern California Regional Occupational Center (SCROC). Youth achieved such positive outcomes that the program was embraced under the umbrella of SSG and funding was acquired to build capacity to hire clinicians and serve. OTTP-LA continues to thrive in Torrance, CA under the direction of Suzanne Afuso, MS, OTR/L, serving thousands of youth annually throughout Los Angeles county.
OTTP expanded to San Francisco in January 1999 when Colleen Devine, MS, OTR/L transitioned from her role as OTTP-LA’s Division Director. The goal was to bring the unique services and models of OTTP-LA to underserved youth in San Francisco. OTTP-SF began with Colleen and one other occupational therapist through a TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) grant funded by the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department. Together the two OTs cleaned out a broom closet at Ida B. Wells High School, which served as the division’s first office site, and provided comprehensive mental health, pre-vocational, and life-skills services to 50 students annually.
Today OTTP-SF is no longer located in a broom closet. We occupy two large offices and have expanded from 2 staff members to 60 (and are continuing to grow)! Over the last 23 years, our multi-disciplinary staff of licensed mental health occupational therapists, AMFTs, LMFTs, ASWs, MSWs, LCSWs, LPCCs, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners have served more than 20,000 clients. We serve children, youth, and young adults ages 3 to 24 through an array of prevention, early intervention, school-based, workforce development, and after-care services. Our community-based services meet youth where they’re at, including their home, school, and community environments. Our interventions include assessment, therapeutic individual intervention, therapeutic groups, psychotherapy, family therapy, employment, and case management. Therapeutic activities are hands-on, engaging, and meaningful to our clients. This is why we say we are “healing through doing.”
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