New Partnership with University of California, San Francisco Will Help Grow and Diversify State’s Mental Health Workforce

October 20, 2020 | 2 min Read
  • Four-year, $4 million UnitedHealth Group grant will help University of California, San Francisco grow and diversify the pipeline of child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners

  • Partnership to address a projected critical shortage of mental health providers in California

  • A similar grant partnership at UC San Diego, also being announced today, will address needs in Southern California

A four-year, $4 million grant partnership between the University of California, San Francisco and UnitedHealth Group will expand the mental health workforce in California. Co-led by UCSF’s School of Medicine and School of Nursing, the partnership will grow the pipeline of diverse child and adolescent psychiatry clinicians by creating new clinical learning opportunities and mentoring supports for child and adolescent psychiatry fellows and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners as well as providing scholarships and financial supports to underrepresented medical and nursing students pursuing child and adolescent mental health careers.

In addition to the partnership with UCSF, UnitedHealth Group and the University of California San Diego are also launching a new four-year, $4 million initiative to diversify the pipeline of child and adolescent psychiatrists and encourage medical students to pursue careers in this field through the creation of new psychiatry curricula and clinical learning opportunities, expanded student mentoring, and new financial support for diverse students and residents.

“We have a serious shortage in our state’s mental health workforce,” said California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis. “This grant will be a critical step in helping to develop and grow a diverse health care workforce that is well-prepared to address the distinct mental health needs of children and youth in California. As a UC Regent, I am proud that this effort will leverage the incredible expertise of the University of California to better serve our communities.”

California has a mental health worker shortage that is projected to grow worse unless meaningful action is taken to address it, according to the California Future Health Workforce Commission. In California, there is a severe shortage with only 13 child and adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 children, compared to 75 pediatricians per 100,000 children. By 2028, California will have only about half of the psychiatrists it will need to serve residents in need of treatment, and 28% fewer psychologists, social workers and counselors than necessary to meet the projected demand, according to the UCSF’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. In some communities and regions, the shortages will be even worse.

“One of our nation’s most pressing health care needs is the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents,” said Steve Cain, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of California, part of UnitedHealth Group. “Together with the University of California San Francisco, UnitedHealth Group is honored to help expand and diversify the health care workforce.”

It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 children living in the United States experiences a mental disorder in a given year, according to the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report. Teen suicides have increased 34% in the past three years for adolescents ages 15-19, according to America’s Health Rankings 2019 Health of Women and Children Report.

The new programs enabled by the grant partnership with the UCSF School of Nursing and School of Medicine are already up and running. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners have been selected as scholarship recipients and are receiving training as they work with youth; medical students specializing in psychiatry have been recruited for fellowships are completing rotations; and UCSF faculty members have been hired and recruited to mentor residents and fellows.

“As part of UCSF’s commitment to serving the public, we are grateful for UnitedHealth Group’s support in preparing our medical and nursing students to deliver world-class mental health care to communities across California, the country and around the world,” said Dan Lowenstein, University of California, San Francisco’s executive vice chancellor and provost.

About UnitedHealth Group

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) is a diversified health care company dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and helping make the health system work better for everyone. UnitedHealth Group offers a broad spectrum of products and services through two distinct platforms: UnitedHealthcare, which provides health care coverage and benefits services; and Optum, which provides information and technology-enabled health services. For more information, visit UnitedHealth Group at or follow @UnitedHealthGrp on Twitter.