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The San Diego Workforce Partnership received a $310,000 grant from Together Toward Health — a program of the Public Health Institute — to fund a new behavioral health job training program, it was announced Thursday.

It is part of a statewide initiative to expand workforce development opportunities for Californians most impacted by COVID-19 and amplify outreach efforts to stop the spread of the virus. Workforce Partnership’s newest paid training program is aimed at helping San Diegans launch meaningful careers in behavioral and mental healthcare.

“Public Health Institute’s generous grant will help the San Diego Workforce Partnership to equip 25 San Diegans with the knowledge, skills and certifications required to advance and launch careers in behavioral and mental health,” said Peter Callstrom, San Diego Workforce Partnership CEO. “We need to take care of our communities from the inside out and prioritize their social and emotional wellbeing, especially amid the COVID-19 health and economic crisis where many San Diegans are struggling to cope and survive.”

The grant runs through the end of the year. Funding from the grant will provide 120 hours of paid behavioral health- and job-readiness training, stipends, supportive services and child care solutions to program participants. Workforce Partnership intends to prioritize the recruitment of women, refugees, youth, and Black and Latino community members for the paid behavioral health program.

“We are focused on funding activities that address the inequities exacerbated by COVID,” said Susan Watson, director of Together Toward Health. “Efforts like this in San Diego reflect both the anticipated ongoing behavioral health needs and our commitment to support workforce development strategies to strengthen local economic resilience within disproportionately impacted communities.”

According to research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the number of adults in the U.S. reporting symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder increased fourfold from 2019 to January 2021. Children, mothers, communities of color and essential workers are demonstrating an increased need for behavioral health services but are struggling to get their needs met, a workforce partnership statement read. The pandemic and resulting isolation and job loss has created a crisis in an already strained and under-resourced behavioral health system.

An application for the training program can be found at https://forms.workforce.org/form-5910555/behavioral-health-workforce-interest- form.

–City News Service