Judge Widens Order To Raise Mental Health Workers’ Pay
A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Department of Mental Health to raise salaries of all clinicians in an effort to reduce the increasing staff shortages at state mental health facilities, the Los Angeles Times reports.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton at a hearing on Monday suggested that he would require pay raises only for psychiatrists, but his written order expanded the raises to psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and psychiatric technicians (Romney/Gold, Los Angeles Times, 5/25).
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, DMH 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 (California Healthline, 5/22).
The state could avoid some of the court-ordered raises by transferring patients out of some hospitals and grouping them at fewer facilities, or it could raise salaries only for those clinicians who treat patients under the court's jurisdiction, according to the Times.
Stephen Mayberg, DMH director, said he will continue to work toward adopting Schwarzenegger's plan while analyzing Karlton's order. He added, "We are committed to addressing all of the concerns that the judge has raised" (Los Angeles Times, 5/25).