Kaiser Permanente refuses to address its mental health care crisis

January 10th, 2015

Kaiser officials abandon talks with mental health clinicians

2,600 clinicians and 700 optical workers and healthcare professionals to launch weeklong statewide strike Monday

OAKLAND — Kaiser Permanente refused to change its position after four bargaining sessions this week with its mental health clinicians. Kaiser abandoned the discussion Saturday evening, informing the clinicians’ bargaining committee that Kaiser had no intention of addressing the chronic staffing issues that have plagued its mental health services for four years.

“It’s disappointing, disheartening, and incomprehensible,” said Clement Papazian, an Oakland clinical social worker and member of the bargaining committee. “Kaiser’s leadership has made it clear in no uncertain terms that revenue is more important to them than patient care. They’re bringing in billions in profit every year and have stockpiled a $32 billion reserve, yet they refuse to put any of that money toward complying with the law in their psychiatry department and providing the care their members pay for with their monthly premiums.”

“Despite their marketing campaigns and feel-good rhetoric, Kaiser refuses to treat its clinicians as partners in health care and refuses to take our concerns seriously,” said Marcy Reda, a Walnut Creek clinical social worker and bargaining team member. “The California Department of Managed Health Care has confirmed the severity of Kaiser’s systemic understaffing and its serious, sometimes tragic consequences for Kaiser patients, yet Kaiser has no plan for improving access to care for some of its most vulnerable patients, those with mental health diagnoses such as depression, bipolar disorder, psychotic symptoms, and general anxiety.”

With Kaiser having demonstrated its unwillingness to correct the systemic staffing issues that have led to hefty fines and stern rebukes from state regulators, Kaiser’s 2,600 mental health clinicians, joined by more than 700 Kaiser optical workers and healthcare professionals, will proceed with a weeklong statewide strike set to begin Monday, January 12. Picket lines will be in place at more than 35 Kaiser facilities throughout the state.

Click here to read press coverage of the strike.