Members hold vigils for Kaiser mental health patients

KaiserAugust 29, 2019

Kaiser mental health clinicians held vigils outside Kaiser facilities across Southern California this month to draw attention to the struggles faced by their patients, who must weeks or months for therapy appointments.

Patients and community allies joined clinicians at several vigils, during which clinicians read stories submitted by patients who were denied timely care. KPCC covered a picket in Los Angeles and KGET covered the Bakersfield picket.

“Kaiser is making our patients wait longer than ever for therapy appointments,” said Lilian Honanian, a Kaiser therapist. “It’s agonizing to have to tell a patient after a good session that my next available appointment isn’t for another two months.”

Kaiser’s nearly 4,000 mental health clinicians and other health care professionals have been without a contract since last September. While we await a response to a proposal for settlement in Southern California, Kaiser management in Northern California this month rejected our settlement proposal. Our offer called for crisis services at every Kaiser clinic, worker participation to ensure that new hires are placed in the most understaffed clinics and sufficient time for clinicians to perform important patient care duties including responding to patient emails, communicating with social service agencies and collaborating to help best care for challenging patients.

Kaiser, which has been fined and repeatedly cited for failing to provide timely access to mental health care, has the financial resources to implement the improvements sought by clinicians. Last week, the HMO reported a $2 billion net profit in the second quarter of this year, following a $3.2 billion net profit in the first quarter.

The vigils, which took place in Bakersfield, San Diego, Riverside, Baldwin Park Fontana and Los Angles are the most recent action by Kaiser mental health workers, who went on strike for five days in December to protest long wait times for patients at Kaiser clinics. In April, clinicians held a one-day strike at the Pasadena clinic where wait times for appointments now exceed three months.