HRSA Team Photo
Left to right: Lilit Amirkhanyan, Rima Jubran, MD, Jolene Collins, MD, Douglas Vanderbilt, MD, Karen Niemeier , Christine Mirzaian, MD, Carole Johnson (HRSA), Roberta Kato, MD, Lindsey Berman, Ellen Zaman, Beth Fitzpatrick

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Awarded $2.5 Million Grant to Address Youth Mental Health Crisis by Training Primary Care Pediatricians in Behavioral and Mental Health

Federal HRSA grant trains pediatric residents and attending physicians to deliver mental and behavioral health services on the front lines of health care; also supports research evaluating how effective this training is in improving conditions including anxiety, depression and substance use

“It was inspiring to visit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and see firsthand how their doctors, nurses, and staff are coming together to address our nation’s mental health crisis,” says Carole Johnson, Administrator of HRSA who recently met with CHLA recipients of HRSA grants.

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ (CHLA) Division of General Pediatrics has been awarded a five-year $2.5 million Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant in support of clinical training and research designed to address the growing mental health crisis among children and youth.

Called the Community-Partnered Pediatric Residency Training in Mental and Behavioral Health, the project is designed to train up to 190 CHLA pediatric residents in the primary care setting in mental and behavioral health care, says Christine Mirzaian, MD, Principal Investigator and Project Director of the grant.

“By improving the infrastructure for mental and behavioral health problems so they may be addressed immediately in the primary care setting, we anticipate that children, adolescents and young adults will benefit greatly from this program,” Dr. Mirzaian says, explaining that the initiative is a response to a lack of pediatric mental health services and the haunting number of teenagers dying from substance use daily.

Home to one of the largest pediatrician training programs in the United States, CHLA is the only freestanding children’s hospital included among the 24 grant recipients nationwide and the only hospital in Los Angeles County awarded. The grant is funded by HRSA as part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

“It was inspiring to visit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and see firsthand how their doctors, nurses, and staff are coming together to address our nation’s mental health crisis. We know that often, the first person you turn to when you or your kids need mental health support is your trusted primary care provider, like the team at CHLA. Yet for too long, we haven’t given those primary care providers the mental health training they need to help. With funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the Health Resources and Services Administration is investing in making mental health a part of primary care training so that there is no wrong door when your family needs support,” says Carole Johnson, Administrator of HRSA.

The hospital will facilitate the program and related research study in collaboration with the South Central Prevention Coalition, a community agency with a 28-year record of empirically based substance use prevention and culturally responsive programming. CHLA residents will receive directed training at the agency site and benefit from having a psychologist integrated in their primary care clinic to set protocols on acute mental and behavioral health concerns.

The grant’s research component will attempt to prove that, with focused educational modules, community integration and interdisciplinary support, strides can be made on the front lines of the youth mental health crisis. The goal is to equip primary care pediatricians, on both the attending physician and pediatric residency levels, to better address pediatric mental and behavioral health needs, “especially given the often-limited resources and referral options our community faces,” Dr. Mirzaian says. “In addition, we hope that by improving the self-efficacy of primary care physicians to treat their patients, it will reduce provider burnout and frustration.”

Over the course of the study, the CHLA psychologists, administrators and physicians on the research and clinical education team will train doctors enrolled in the CHLA Pediatric Residency program, where more than half of residents provide care in medically underserved areas.

“We hope that this will improve mental and behavioral health access for young people in our community for years to come,” Dr. Mirzaian says. CHLA team members from the hospital’s Division of General Pediatrics, the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, the Pediatric Residency Program and the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities will oversee such research components as evaluation, community-based participatory research, and medical informatics required by the grant.

CHLA physicians will also evaluate health improvement in adolescents who screen positive for anxiety or depression in the primary care clinic setting. In addition, the study group will examine both attending physicians and residents and how they adapt to treating children for mental and behavioral health concerns, as well as patients undergoing substance use treatment and prevention.

Long-term, the project anticipates increasing the number of primary care pediatricians trained in treating mental and behavioral health conditions in historically marginalized communities hard hit by anxiety and depression, substance use disorders, suicide and gun violence.

Dr. Mirzaian also will be coordinating with the LA County Department of Public Health to see how these efforts can complement work led by County Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer to address the opioid crisis in the LA community.

About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is at the forefront of pediatric medicine, offering acclaimed care to children from across the world, the country and the greater Southern California region. Founded in 1901, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is the largest provider of care for children in Los Angeles County, the No. 1 pediatric hospital in California and the Pacific region, and is consistently ranked in the top 10 in the nation on U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of Best Children’s Hospitals. Clinical expertise spans the pediatric care continuum for newborns to young adults, from everyday preventive medicine to the most medically complex cases. Inclusive, compassionate, child- and family-friendly clinical care is led by physicians who are faculty members of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Physicians translate the new discoveries, treatments and cures proven through the work of scientists in The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles—among the top 10 children’s hospitals for National Institutes of Health funding—to bring answers to families faster. The hospital also is home to one of the largest training programs for pediatricians in the United States. To learn more, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, and visit our blog at