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California Supports Students Through $15.6 Million in Behavioral Health Scholarships

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: California is awarding more than $15.6 million in scholarships to support 610 behavioral health students across the state as part of a larger investment in California’s health workforce.

SACRAMENTO– Today the Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI) awarded $15,638,376 in scholarships to 610 behavioral health students through two programs: the Behavioral Health Scholarship and Golden State Social Opportunities programs. These programs increase the number of appropriately trained allied and advanced behavioral health professionals providing direct patient care to traditionally underserved communities in California. Both programs are specifically designed to prioritize awards to those who have experienced economic disadvantage and who have demonstrated experience and commitment to providing direct services in medically underserved areas, or to medically underserved populations.

“These scholarships will play a pivotal role in developing a diverse workforce of behavioral health professionals in California,” said HCAI Director Elizabeth Landsberg. “Given the racial wealth gap, scholarships are an important tool to enable those with lived experience to become part of California’s behavioral health workforce.” 

WHY THIS MATTERS: Awarding scholarships to behavioral health students in California is a strategic and essential step in addressing the state’s mental health crisis. California is facing both a shortage of qualified behavioral health professionals and an uneven geographic distribution of those workers, resulting in behavioral health shortage areas. Scholarships can encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds to enter the behavioral health field, increasing the likelihood of more culturally competent and geographically distributed care.

HOW THESE PROGRAMS HELP STUDENTS & CALIFORNIANS: These scholarships expand both the skilled behavioral health workforce and access to health care in underserved areas by incentivizing individuals to fill gaps in California’s healthcare system in return for financial aid. They help build a more robust, diverse, and well-trained mental health workforce, improve access to care, and ultimately enhance the well-being of the state’s residents while yielding long-term benefits for both the individuals and the state healthcare system.

“California is facing a severe shortage of mental health professionals. My goal through this program is to address the shortages that exist within the mental health workforce and to reduce financial barriers for students pursuing mental health professions as they complete their fieldwork,” said Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes from the 50th Assembly District, who authored the language that created the Golden State Social Opportunities Program.


  • HCAI awarded BHSP scholarships to 461 students across 40 counties, spanning 32 professional categories—including behavioral health specialists, community health workers, substance use specialists, case managers and more, totaling $10,407,578. Eligible applicants may receive up to $25,000. This scholarship gives priority to those with the ability to speak at least one of 17 Medi-Cal threshold languages, a history of volunteering or working in a medically underserved area, or a disadvantaged background. The Behavioral Health Scholarship Programprovides scholarships to behavioral health students seeking education or training to become behavioral health practitioners through a certificate, associate, bachelor, master and/or doctoral degree program in exchange for a 12-month service obligation practicing and providing direct patient care in an underserved community. These awards are made possible through funding from the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative. The CYBHI is part of Governor Newsom’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health, a historic investment by the State of California to address the factors that contribute to the mental health and well-being of our children and youth.


  • HCAI awarded GSSOP scholarships to 149 students in 31 counties to become licensed counselors, social workers, and therapists, totaling $5,230,798. Eligible applicants may receive up to $25,000 per year for a total of up to $50,000. The Golden State Social Opportunities Program aims to increase the number of licensed behavioral health professionals providing direct patient care in exchange for a 24-month service obligation practicing and providing direct patient care in a California-based nonprofit community-based organization. In addition to economic disadvantage and previous experience working with underserved communities, this scholarship gives priority to those who have experienced foster care and/or homelessness, as well as employees of community-based organizations. The GSSOP is funded through grants, donations, and special funds. 

BIGGER PICTURE: These scholarship programs represent a pivotal step toward California’s vision of an inclusive, innovative, and accessible behavioral health ecosystem, especially for its children and youth. With the support of these scholarships, the State is building a Workforce for a Healthy California and is investing in a brighter and healthier future for its most vulnerable populations.