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Santa Barbara County offering $90K signing bonuses to new-hire physicians

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Posted at 5:27 PM, Dec 06, 2022

In an attempt to bring more long-term behavioral wellness specialists to the County of Santa Barbara, officials say a $90,000 signing bonus will now be offered to incoming, new-hire physicians.

Suzanne Grimmesey, Chief of Strategy and Community Engagement for the Department of Behavioral Wellness, says while they have an adequate number of psychiatrists on staff, more than half of them are employed under temporary assignment.

"The goal is always to hire on as many civil servant positions as we can, as possible," Grimmesey told KSBY.

Anne Robin, Behavioral Health Administrator for the County of San Luis Obispo, says her team has run into similar challenges.

"This generation is not necessarily looking for long-term positions, and we have noticed that trend over the last 10-15 years," Robin said.

She says competition from other nearby state agencies like the Atascadero State Hospital and the California Men's Colony make it more of a challenge to attract new long-term health specialists. Robin adds that incentives are also in at the County of San Luis Obispo's Public Health Department to address the issue.

"We are offering coverage for training. We are also involved in some loan reimbursement programs, both state and federal, that people who have certain educational loans would be able to apply for scholarships or loan reimbursement," Robin said.

But a shortage in psychiatrists is not a problem unique to the Central Coast. According to a study from the National Library of Medicine, through 2024, the country is expected to face a shortage of up to 30,000 psychiatrists.

And even though temporary hires bring a quick solution to the situation, Grimmesey emphasized the importance of bringing on more long-term staff.

"We believe that gives the greatest longevity for our clients, for the relationships that they have with psychiatrists and ultimately provides the best quality of care," she said.

Grimmesey adds that the new signing bonuses will also be offered to new-hire physicians and healthcare practitioners in the County of Santa Barbara's Public Health Department.

The bonuses approved by the Board of Supervisors will continue from now through the end of the County of Santa Barbara's fiscal year which wraps up in June.