L.A. County mental health chief is resigning after a ‘health scare’

People on the roof of a downtown building.
Dr. Jonathan Sherin, who is resigning as director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, at the opening of the Ron Beasley Wellness Center in the heart of Skid Row.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Dr. Jonathan Sherin, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, is resigning effective July 1 because of his health, he said in a letter to staffers.

Sherin, who started his post at the nation’s largest county mental health system in 2016, called it “by far the most difficult decision of my career.”

“I have encouraged you to always take care of yourselves and your loved ones,” he said in his letter to staff. “Following a serious health scare of my own recently and weeks of subsequent soul searching, I am taking my own advice and stepping down ... so that I can focus properly on my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of my family.”


As director, Sherin has been tasked with one of the country’s most difficult mental health jobs, navigating a massive county bureaucracy while reporting to his five bosses, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, during the height of the homelessness crisis.

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True to form, Sherin mentioned in his letter his frustrations with the county system.

“I know firsthand that it isn’t easy to work within a system that is often focused more on taking care of various bureaucratic processes than on the communities we are here to serve,” Sherin said.

Upon his departure, the board will likely chose an interim director before identifying a new candidate.

Prior to coming to the county, Sherin focused much of his work on serving vulnerable populations, especially veterans experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges. He previously worked at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the nonprofit Volunteers of America, which administers healthcare and housing programs for low-income people.

Sherin is a psychiatrist and neurobiologist by training. As director, he tried to work on the streets with the county’s homeless outreach team once a month.

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Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose 4th District includes Southeast Los Angeles cities, said in a statement that Sherin has been a dedicated public servant.


“He has led the department toward a vision in which mental healthcare is treated as seriously as physical healthcare,” Hahn said. “We will miss him deeply but the work that he has started will move forward thanks to his dedication.”

Supervisor Hilda Solis in the 1st District thanked Sherin for his service “and for supporting critical initiatives like our mobile crisis response teams and alternatives to incarceration.”

“I’m also grateful for his support in launching our Restorative Care Village at LAC+USC Medical Center,” Solis said. “Given the urgent mental health needs in the county, it is vital that a new director is identified as soon as possible, and I am committed to working expediently to finding the right person with the necessary expertise and vision for the role.”