Judge Orders Pay Raises for State Mental Health Workers
A federal judge on Monday ordered California's Department of Mental Health to raise salaries for psychiatrists in an effort to reduce the increasing staff shortages at state mental health facilities, the Los Angeles Times reports (Romney/Gold, Los Angeles Times, 5/22).
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) earlier this year ordered pay increases for psychiatrists and other care providers working at state mental health facilities to help compete with prison salaries after a court ordered steep pay increases for prison mental health workers. Under the governor's plan, Department of Mental Health psychiatrists' pay would be within 5% of salaries for prison psychiatrists, while other positions' pay would be raised within 18% of the prison rate.
Lawyers representing inmates with mental illnesses said that the state plan was not sufficient and that the proposed pay increases for DMH workers were inadequate to discourage workers from leaving for similar jobs at state prisons, where pay is higher.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton in response ordered the state to submit a comprehensive solution for reducing the vacancy rates at state hospitals (California Healthline, 4/24). The system currently has 1,800 vacancies (Los Angeles Times, 5/22).
Michael Bien, an attorney for inmates, said the court-ordered raises would apply only to psychiatrists and staff who work exclusively with inmates who are in the custody of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Workers who care for patients under DMH custody would not receive a raise ordered by Karlton (Curran, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 5/22).
Bien said a written order is expected within days from Karlton, who said in court that he might broaden the raise to other job categories (Los Angeles Times, 5/22).