The Santa Barbara County Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services is hiring 11 full-time equivalent licensed mental health professionals to serve children and youth in foster care throughout the county.

Five new mental health staff personnel will be based in Santa Maria, three in Lompoc and three in Santa Barbara.

The increased staffing is in response to an order issued by a federal district court judge to settle the “Katie A” class-action suit that requires counties to improve the provision of mental health and supportive services for children and youth in, or at imminent risk of placement in, foster care in California.

Currently 375 youths are in foster care in Santa Barbara County. Sixty-five are ADMHS clients, and an estimated 124 additional children and youth will become clients within the next year.

“Working closely with existing ADMHS children’s practitioners, we are confident that the enhanced staffing will effectively meet the needs of children and youth in foster care in Santa Barbara County,” said Takashi Wada, M.D., M.P.H., ADMHS interim director.

ADMHS provides treatment, rehabilitation and support services to approximately 7,600 clients with mental illness and 4,500 clients with substance use disorders annually. The department employs 281 staff and contracts with 23 community‐based providers.

— Suzanne Grimmesey is a chief strategy officer for Santa Barbara County ADMHS.