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New UC program will double pipeline of specialized mental health nurse practitioners in response to growing crisis

With California facing an urgent and growing shortage of mental health professionals, the three Schools of Nursing within the UC systemUniversity of California system (UCSF, UC Davis and UCLA) are launching a new online certificate program that will prepare 300 psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) by 2025.

 

Over 50% of people with mental illness in the state are not receiving psychiatric care —and many communities in the San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire have only half as many psychiatrists as other parts of the state. A recent report from Healthforce Center at UCSF projected California will experience a 34% decline in the number of psychiatrists by 2028 — and will have 41% fewer psychiatrists than needed in the next 10 years. There are 1,200 PMHNPs working in California.

 

The new program — the first online, post-master’s certificate program of its kind in California — is expected to nearly double the state’s current pipeline of PMHNPs between now and 2025. Graduates are expected to serve as many as 378,000 patients over the next five years.

 

Along with psychiatrists, PMHNPs are specialized mental health providers authorized to prescribe psychotropic medications, treat severe mental illness and substance abuse disorders, and offer psychiatric care. A 2019 report from the blue-ribbon California
Future Health Workforce Commission, co-chaired by former University of California President Janet Napolitano, highlighted the need for immediate action to address the state’s growing mental health provider shortages. Among its top priority recommendations, the Commission called for the rapid development of a PMHNP program to quickly recruit and train a substantial number of new mental health providers to serve in underserved rural and urban communities.

 

The program achieves this goal — allowing nurse practitioners across the state to expand their certification without requiring relocation
to a physical campus. Students can stay in their own communities to complete their training. Applicants will also be recruited from underserved rural and urban areas — so they can better serve their communities upon program completion.

The development, design, and launch of the program has been supported by a $1.5 million grant from the California Health Care Foundation. More information about the program can be found on our website nursing.ucla.edu.