Kaiser mental health clinicians to strike July 10 over chronic understaffing

Kaiser Healthcare ProsJune 28, 2019

Citing a growing child mental health crisis at their clinic, dozens of Kaiser therapists authorized a one-day strike if the HMO refuses to boost staffing in order to reduce intolerable appointment wait times and end overcrowding of group therapy sessions.

The strike will be held from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, at 4141 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco.

Kaiser mental health clinics are understaffed across California, and the HMO’s lone San Francisco clinic has reached a breaking point. Children, many of whom are dealing with depression, anxiety and the impacts of bullying, now have to wait four to six weeks for their first face-to-face visit with a Kaiser mental health therapist — and just as long or longer for a return appointment. Group therapy sessions for children who are self-harming and contemplating suicide have become so crowded that some children and their parents have to sit on the floor because there aren’t enough therapists to provide them the one-on-one care needed for successful early intervention. Today, NUHW filed a complaint with the California Department of Managed Health Care, the agency responsible for regulating HMOs, alleging that Kaiser is in violation of multiple state laws and requesting an investigation.

“We just don’t have enough resources in our clinic to provide all of the services that our patients need, and Kaiser isn’t doing anything about it,” said Alicia Cruz, a therapist at the clinic.

The San Francisco clinic went without a manager for 18 months. Staff with no specialized experience in child therapy have been borrowed from other departments to do the initial intake appointments, and no new job openings have been posted.

Mental health clinicians, represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, have requested that Kaiser hire more therapists but Kaiser managers have ignored them.

While Kaiser has refused to increase mental health staffing, it has announced the development of a new $900 million headquarters and agreed to pay the Golden State Warriors up to $295 million for naming rights to the sports and entertainment complex surrounding the Warriors’ new arena.

“Kaiser executives need to reverse their priorities,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli said. “They’re spending billions of dollars on buildings and branding deals, but they won’t spend a fraction of that to help kids get care that could save their lives.”