Kaiser strongly criticized in public forum on mental health care
Kaiser Permanente took a beating Wednesday evening at a Sonoma County public forum on mental health care that was attended by an overflow crowd of mental health consumers, family members, and the public.
According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “a majority of the at least 40 speakers who addressed a panel, which included state and federal health care officials, blasted Kaiser, saying the HMO had failed to provide adequate and timely mental health services.” One speaker broke into tears as she recounted the suicide of her husband after Kaiser failed to give him adequate care.
NUHW Kaiser clinicians attended the forum, which focused on mental health parity laws and was hosted by Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane and moderated by Congressman Mike Thompson. NUHW Research Director Fred Seavey spoke about the union’s efforts to reform Kaiser’s mental health services and distributed copies of “Care Delayed, Care Denied.” Seavey also pointed to evidence provided by NUHW members that Kaiser, despite a $4 million fine levied by California’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), still does not provide timely therapy to its patients. Seavey called for a much larger penalty.
The forum’s panel included Brenda Grealish, chief of the mental health services division of the state Department of Health Care Services; Sherrie Lowenstein, deputy director for legislative affairs at the Department of Managed Health Care, which regulates HMOs; 4th District state Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, whose district includes parts of Sonoma Valley and Rohnert Park; and Bonnie Preston, policy and outreach specialist for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
After nearly two hours of public comment, much of it strongly critical of Kaiser, Lowenstein, the DMHC representative, said, “We’re not done with Kaiser.”