County mental-health administrators have signed a $1.6 million contract with private medical service Traditions Behavioral Health (TBH) to provide six temporary full-time psychiatrists devoted to acute and crisis care over the next year. Last year, the county contracted with TBH to provide just one psychiatrist. Nationally, there’s a shortage of new psychiatrists entering the field to balance the exodus of those retiring. In that context, the pay offered by Santa Barbara County has lagged behind what many psychiatrists can make. As a result, only seven of the county’s budgeted 24 medical professional positions are currently occupied by civil service psychiatrists. The supervisors also approved three additional contracts ​— ​totaling another $1.5 million ​— ​for additional psychiatric services to help fill that void.


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