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 UC San Francisco’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. And in some communities and regions, the shortages will be even worse.

UnitedHealth Group is collaborating with UC San Diego and UC San Francisco on four-year grants totaling $8 million to help the schools grow and diversify their pipelines of diverse child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners. The goal of the collaboration is to address a projected critical shortage of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and counselors in the state of California.

Details of the Initiative 

Each institution received a four-year, $4 million grant to expand the mental health workforce in California:

  • •  The partnership with UC San Francisco’s School of Medicine and School of Nursing will create a new public psychiatry opportunity within the child psychiatry fellowship; recruit diverse students for its Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program; and provide scholarships and living stipends to underrepresented medical and nursing students pursuing child and adolescent mental health careers.

  • •  The collaboration with UC San Diego School of Medicine will encourage medical students to pursue careers in mental health through the introduction of novel learning opportunities, individualized mentorship, scholarships, and financial education support for participating residents.

“We have a serious shortage in our state’s mental health workforce,” said Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis. These grants “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.”

The Need to Expand California’s Mental Health Workforce

There is a severe shortage of pediatric mental health providers in California with only 13 child and adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 children, compared to 75 pediatricians per 100,000 children. It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 children living in the United States experiences a mental disorder, according to the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report. The teen suicide rate has increased 34% in the past four years for California adolescents ages 15-19, according to America’s Health Rankings 2020 Health of Women and Children Data Update.

“One of our 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, and the University of California, San Diego, UnitedHealth Group is honored to help lead the expansion and diversification of the health care workforce.”

Learn more: California Mental Health Services Division