October 18, 2022

Department of Mental Health will Expand Student Trainee Opportunities

Los Angeles, CA – Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have unanimously approved a proposal by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger to expand the number of student trainee opportunities in the Department of Mental Health as a strategy to recruit more mental health professionals to the department.

“We are in the middle of a sea change in how the County responds to and treats mental health crises, sending more mental health teams into the field to help deescalate crisis situations, and opening more facilities where people can recover,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “But this progress is threatened by a lack of mental health professionals who can fill these new positions. Luckily, there are plenty of students who are studying to get in these fields, and we should start working with them now so they are ready to fill jobs in LA County when they graduate.”

To meet the mental health needs of our communities, Los Angeles County has committed to expanding available mental health services, including innovative programs like the Psychiatric Mobile Response Teams (PMRT), Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement (HOME) teams, and Therapeutic Transport Vans. The County is also working on expanding the number of mental health beds available to ensure that everyone who needs a space to stabilize and recover from a mental health crisis can get the help they need.

However, the success of these programs is threatened by a shortage of mental health staff. There is currently a 28% vacancy rate at the County’s Department of Mental Health, and the department is facing challenges in recruitment and retention, at least in part due to the increase in demand for mental health professionals across the nation, state, and here in Los Angeles County.

“This motion is about fixing a big gap that we have in our mental health services system – we simply don’t have enough qualified mental health clinicians to meet the need that exists in our County,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who co-authored the motion. “I’m hopeful that increasing the number of County training sites for students will both expand their access to the diverse training sites within our Department of Mental Health and also help us attract new local talent. This has the potential to be a ‘win-win’ situation.”

Hahn and Barger’s motion, which passed today, directs Dr. Lisa Wong, the Interim Director of the County’s Department of Mental Health, in collaboration with the Department of Human Resources, to report back in 90 days with a plan to expand the number of training sites for students in key mental health-related fields to enhance recruitment and retention of mental health clinicians.

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