To address homelessness crisis, L.A. County needs mental health workers, fast

To address homelessness crisis, L.A. County needs mental health workers, fast

Relevant News
Miguel Lorenzana, a substance abuse counselor with the Los Angeles County-run East San Gabriel Valley Mental Health Center. The county is trying to fill 1,800 mental health positions. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)


An $18,500 stipend to help pay for graduate school. Student loan forgiveness. Free on-the-job training. All license fees paid. And the chance to serve the under-served — “with dignity.”

“Do Worthwhile Work,” the new marketing campaign of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, highlights these perks on its website in the hope that job candidates will see the benefits of public sector mental health work, and apply.

“Your work can change lives,” the campaign reads. “Leave today better than you found it, LA County DMH has a place for you.”

Many places, in fact: As of mid-September, the agency had a vacancy rate of 28%, with 1,890 vacant positions and just over 4,800 employees, according to county data.

For decades, the department didn’t need marketing campaigns or too many perks to get people to apply for jobs. But in recent years, the largest county mental health department in America has seen a decline in applicants.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for mental health practitioners was already exceeding the supply. Many in California were retiring, and master’s programs and medical schools were not turning out enough therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists to replace retirees, or meet the growing demand, according to recent research on the state’s behavioral health workforce.

If workforce trends continue, California is projected to experience a shortage of 5,000 mental health practitioners by 2026, according to research by consulting firm Mercer.

CLICK HERE to read full story.