UCSF and UnitedHealth Group announce new partnership to grow and diversify California’s mental health workforce

(Content repurposed from original UCSF News posting .)

A four-year, $4 million grant partnership between UC 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.

“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.”

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

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. There are only 13 child and adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 children in California, 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 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 a National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report. The teen suicide rate has increased 34% in California in the past four years for adolescents ages 15-19, according to America’s Health Rankings 2020 Health of Women and Children Data Update.

Four-year, $4 million UnitedHealth Group grant will help UCSF grow and diversify the pipeline of child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners

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 who 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 UCSF Executive Vice Chancellor and provost Dan Lowenstein, MD.

In addition to the partnership with UCSF, UnitedHealth Group and UC 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.