With mental illness among South LA residents—particularly the homeless—reaching staggering rates, the Board of Supervisors this week voted to spend $800,000 to fund new psychiatric and family medicine residency programs at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Watts.

Family medicine residents will do their inpatient work at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, and outpatient rotations at the Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center in Watts.

The psychiatric programs will focus on outpatient services in an area that includes Athens, Compton, Crenshaw, Florence, Hyde Park, Lynwood, Paramount and Watts.

Supervisor Janice Hahn said the aim of the first residency program at Rancho Los Amigos was to retain more full-time county physicians and rely less on contracted physicians.

“This residency program will create a new pipeline for homegrown L.A. County physicians who will learn rehabilitative medicine from world-renowned experts and help Rancho Los Amigos thrive,” Hahn said.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who co-authored the motion, said more family physicians were needed in South Los Angeles.

“Nationwide, we have a shortage of primary care clinicians, and the need is particularly acute in the communities surrounding Drew University,” Ridley-Thomas said. “I am hopeful that many of these trainees will opt to practice locally upon their graduation.”

The dean of the Drew School of Medicine, Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, said her students offer more than just medical knowledge.

“We bring not only our expertise and talent, but our dedication to developing a culturally competent physician workforce,” Prothrow-Stith said.

The programs are set to begin in June 2018, with eight family medicine residents and four psychiatric residents. The size of the family medicine program is expected to increase three-fold by 2020 and the psychiatry program hopes to enroll 16 residents by 2021.