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Marvin Southard - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Los Angeles, CA, US

Marvin Southard Marvin Southard

Director Doctoral Social Work Program Professor of the Practice in Social Work Dept. of Social Change and Innovation | USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work


Dr. Southard is a nationally renowned expert in the areas of mental health, homelessness, and substance abuse






Marvin Southard - Saks Institute 2013 Spring Symposium Spirituality's Role in Public Mental Health, by Dr. Marvin J  Southard, Director, LA County MH Doctor of Social Work (DSW) - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work



Dr. Southard is a professor of practice. He serves as the Chair school's Doctor of Social Work program.

A licensed clinical social worker, Southard is a nationally renowned expert in the areas of mental health, homelessness and substance abuse. From 1998 to 2015, he was director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, serving more than 250,000 clients annually in one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the nation. During his tenure, he focused on developing community-based partnerships, treatment of co-occurring mental illness and substance use, using peer lead prorams and initiating children’s mental health programs. Before that, he served in a similar capacity as director of mental health in Kern County, overseeing mental health, substance abuse, public conservatorship and mental health-related HIV services. His past appointments also include seven years as vice president of mental health programs and director of clinical services at El Centro Human Services Corporation in Los Angeles.

He served as senior fellow of public policy at the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research; as associate clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine’s psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences department; and as clinical associate professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Southard is past president of the California Social Work Education Center Board of Directors as well as past president of the County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California. He was also a commissioner on the LA County Children and Families First – First 5 LA Commission. He is currently Chair of the California Institute of Behavioral Health Solutions and Executive Committee member of Proxy Parent Foundation

Among his many achievements are the 2016 Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year Award from UCLA in recognition of his contributions and dedication to the field of mental health and the 2015 Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect Award for his commitment to protect the most vulnerable children in LA County. He is currently a board member of the California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions, a member of the American College of Mental Health Administration and a board member of the Network for Social Work Management. Mostly recently he was recognized for Lifetime Achievement by NAMI of California.

Education (3)

University of California, Los Angeles: D. S. W. 1983

University of California, Berkeley: M. S. W. 1975

St. John’s College: B. A. 1971

Areas of Expertise (5)

Substance Abuse Mental Health Social Work Social Work Education Homelessness

Industry Expertise (4)

Social Services Mental Health Care Education/Learning Research

Accomplishments (4)

Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year Award, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs (professional)


U.S. President’s Volunteer Service Award, USC School of Social Work Department of Community, Organization, and Business Innovation (professional)


Robert C. Egnew Excellence in Advocacy Award, National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors (professional)


Exemplary Service Award, Los Angeles County Mental Health Commission's 16th Annual Profiles of Hope Volunteer and Program Recognition Awards (professional)



Media Appearances (5)

Free clinics aim to fill VA's shortfalls in mental health

Kaiser Health News  


Partnering with a university and having the flexibility of private funds makes the L.A. clinic uniquely qualified to provide the best scientific treatment as it evolves, said Marvin Southard, the clinic’s CEO and former mental health director for L.A. County. “And it’s constantly evolving,” he said...

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USC mental health clinic’s opening celebrates vision for veterans

USC News  


Marvin Southard, clinic CEO and professor of practice at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, said the clinic was going to do more than provide mental health therapy. Through a robust outreach staff, it hopes to connect veterans to other services and benefits they might need in the region.

“The biggest part of our vision for the clinic is that we desire not merely to be another provider of care, we want to be the connective tissue that allows all of us who serve veterans to do so well,” Southard said.

“We don’t want to supplant or compete. We want to be the support system in our region. If we accomplish that, the people will flourish.”...

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Newly launched institute at USC Price takes a holistic approach to public safety

USC News  


Advisory committee member Marvin Southard, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, is grateful for the institute’s recognition that public safety encompasses more than law enforcement alone.

“On the mental health side, we’re trying as much as possible to get to the root of causes rather than only concentrating on the bad effects when they happen,” Southard said. “By using the Safe Communities Institute to strengthen and build relationships, both the law enforcement and treatment sides will be better off, resulting in communities that will be safer and healthier.”...

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Los Angeles County looks at how to handle mentally ill inmates in jails

Los Angeles Daily News  


Some inmates don’t come out alive. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department accused the county of continuing to “violate the constitutional rights of prisoners with mental illness,” noting 15 of them committed suicide over the last 30 months. Assistant Sheriff for Custody Terri McDonald and county Mental Health Director Marvin Southard agree jail should not be a “de facto mental hospital” and both are working to expand existing diversion programs, and add more...

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Los Angeles County officials look at financing $1.7 billion for jails

Los Angeles Daily News  


County Mental Health Director Marvin Southard also urged the county to tap the federal government for money, particularly to help pay for the treatment of mentally ill and substance-addicted inmates.

“The biggest opportunity that we have is working with the Department of Public Health in making the residential drug treatment benefit that should become available through the Affordable Care Act really operational in Los Angeles County,” he told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday...

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Articles & Publications (3)

A community-partnered, participatory, cluster-randomized study of depression care quality improvement: three-year outcomes Psychiatric Services


Community Partners in Care, a community-partnered, cluster-randomized trial with depressed clients from 93 Los Angeles health and community programs, examined the added value of a community coalition approach (Community Engagement and Planning [CEP]) versus individual program technical assistance (Resources for Services [RS]) for implementing depression quality improvement in underserved communities. CEP was more effective than RS in improving mental health–related quality of life, reducing behavioral health hospitalizations, and shifting services toward community-based programs at six months. At 12 months, continued evidence of improvement was found. This study examined three-year outcomes.

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Implementing challenging policy and systems change: Identifying leadership competencies Human Services Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance


The first challenge, integrating care, is perhaps one of the hardest facing our nation today. Even those of us with excellent health insurance may have experienced personally, or through caring for loved ones, that getting specialty and primary health care connected and coordinated can be extremely difficult and time consuming. This general issue is even more difficult for those who suffer from mental illness. As a result, people with serious mental illness die more than 20 years earlier than the general population, not due to the effects of mental illness such as suicide, but from chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

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Making clinical decisions after Tarasoff New directions for mental health services

Southard, Marvin J., and Bruce H. Gross


Much to the confusion of mental health professionals, Tarasoff has been misrepresented as simply establishing a duty to warn. Clinicians are offered a clear schema for understanding the practical implications of this decision and for implementing it in their practice...

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