Paul Erickson, M.D.

paul and pam

Board of Directors, 2005-2010, 2016-2022
Medical Director, Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine at Cottage Health System
Professional consultant to MWC and NAMI

As a Yale undergrad studying American history and literature, Dr. Paul Erickson gathered that the best way to combine his interests in humanities and science would be to pursue a medical degree. At the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, he discovered a love for psychiatry, because it allowed for more time with patients and a real understanding of their life stories. And it was during his residency at Harvard University’s Cambridge Health Alliance that he discovered a passion for community healthcare and public health approaches to psychiatry. After graduating from that program, Dr. Erickson remained at Cambridge Hospital as clinical director of outpatient psychiatry and later clinical chief of the department.

As his young family grew, his wife, Dr. Pam Reeves, also a psychiatrist, wanted to return to the California sunshine and her family on the west coast. While perusing a medical journal, Dr. Reeves found an ad seeking a psychiatrist at Cottage Health in Santa Barbara and told him “Here is your job.”

In 2002 with their four children, Drs. Erickson and Reeves moved to Santa Barbara. Dr. Erickson has worked at Cottage ever since, as Medical Director of psychiatry and Addiction Medicine Services. Dr. Reeves worked at student health at UCSB and then established a private practice.

Both Dr. Erickson and his wife shared an affinity for public health, having both graduated from the same community health-oriented residency. So, when they got to town, they sought organizations in Santa Barbara that would connect them with community-based programs serving those with mental illness and substance abuse.

When they discovered the Mental Health Association (as it was previously named), it was a little house on Chapala Street. “I remember thinking it felt down to earth and very personal,” said Dr. Erickson. “It was homespun and family friendly and they were doing great work!” Both he and his wife joined the board and became part of the planning team for the new facility on Garden Street.

“That was one of the things that really impressed me about the Mental Wellness Center,” said Dr. Erickson. “They dreamed big and developing housing was such an important, unmet need. Not only was it a big dream, but the facility was beautiful. The architecture, details, and the dignity that came with that kind of housing for mentally ill patients was a tremendous accomplishment.”

In addition to expanding housing beyond the Garden Street apartments, the programs at the Mental Wellness Center also grew, and Dr. Erickson credits Annmarie’s leadership. Among her accomplishments, he highlighted the Mental Health Matters program and educating youth about issues surrounding mental health to reduce stigma. In addition, the YouthWell partnership provides high school students with the support and space to share mental health challenges. “It’s amazing that this has been achieved entirely with volunteers,” he stated. “It’s a remarkable service to the community that deserves more recognition.”

Dr. Erickson also appreciates the great work that the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has done in its partnership with the MWC. He has spoken occasionally at their meetings and is an advocate for support and services for young adults and their families with mental illness. “Young adults deserve the support and opportunity to gain recovery and a full life. It’s been a pleasure to work with George Kaufman and others in their leadership of NAMI.”

“The Mental Wellness Center has been a very good home for my wife and I to connect around our interests in developing community health resources for those with addiction and mental illness,” noted Dr. Erickson. “At the MWC there is an ethic and a spirit that we really appreciate and enjoy being a part of.”