Step Forward Central
Vanessa Martinez, MA, LMFT, Program Director
Claudia Covarrubias, LMFT, Assistant Program Director
2772 Fourth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 295-6067
(619) 295-6047
Step Forward Central

The CalWORKs Step Forward Program, in collaboration with MHS, Inc., is funded by the County of San Diego to provide outpatient behavioral health services to participants in the CalWORKs Welfare-to-Work program.  The program serves individuals residing in San Diego County. Participants and their families are provided with extensive services to reduce barriers toward employment. 

Program Description

Our mission is to serve those families who are struggling with issues such as domestic violence, mental illness, and poverty and guide them to self-sufficiency as they transition from the welfare system to gainful employment. Topics addressed include: depression and anxiety, co-occurring disorders, trauma and domestic violence, parenting skills, healthy relationships, stress management, employment readiness, and a variety of other life skills. The program is comprehensive and works collaboratively with outside resources to provide the most effective and efficient care.


Within the welcoming atmosphere of the program, the widely diverse staff provides the following: 

  • Group support consists of a psycho-educational approach and networking with community resources. Most groups use a comprehensive curriculum or evidenced-based practice as well as various learning modalities.
  • Individual therapy and intensive case management services are provided on-site and off-site at various locations to accommodate the client's goals and the needs of their family.
  • Employment preparation and general vocational services are provided on-site, including testing, ESL, GED, and Job Development. For those participants pursuing specific educational, vocational, or training goals which are not offered on-site, may be offered guidance and advocacy.
  • Parenting support, couple's counseling, and family therapy are available. Parenting support groups are designed to assist families with healthy parent-child interactions, discipline, and limit setting based on the Active Parenting model.
  • Life skills classes and individual coaching, based on Dialectical Behavior Therapy, focus on mindfulness, emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance.
  • Advocacy and assistance with obtaining emergency shelter, food, clothing, childcare, transportation, legal services, and medical care.
  • Psychiatric evaluation, prescription medication, education, and management.
  • Assistance in applying for SSI for participants who are eligible.
  • All groups are offered in English and Spanish. Individual services are offered in other languages including, but not limited to, English, Spanish, Somali, Vietnamese, and Cambodian.

Referral Process

All clients must be a CalWORKs participants.  While referrals may be initiated by anyone, a signed referral from the Employment Case Manager from a Welfare-to-Work office is required.

Hours of Operation: 

Monday through Friday  8:00 AM - 5:00 PM 


Our location is centrally located on 4th Avenue and Olive Street, walking distance from Balboa Park and easily accessible from downtown. All clients must be receiving CalWORKs benefits or in the process of receiving assistance.