NUHW members at Kaiser ratify contracts
More than 4,000 NUHW members at Kaiser Permanente have voted overwhelmingly to ratify new contracts that improve wages and benefits. The contracts also establish a collaborative process for making critical improvements to Kaiser’s mental health care system.
Over the course of six months, Kaiser social workers, psychologists and therapists will meet with management with the goal of re-imagining how Kaiser provides mental health services. For Kaiser clinicians that means building a system in which they have manageable caseloads and patients don’t have to wait months to see their therapists.
The final contracts fell short of what members had hoped to achieve in terms of economics and patient care protections. But all members will get at least a five percent percent pay increase starting in May, and mental health care clinicians will be able to further address concerns over working conditions and access-to-care during the upcoming labor-management discussions.
“Our union is ready to work with Kaiser to achieve real parity for mental health care,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli said. “However, if Kaiser fails to address the issues raised by clinicians and does not allocate the resources necessary to improve access to mental health care, we will again turn to our political and community allies to ensure that Kaiser provides the same level of care for mental health as it does for all of its other services.”
The efforts of Kaiser mental health clinicians in recent months to spotlight the need for timely and equitable care has already had an impact.
An intense public campaign waged by clinicians that included multiple strikes, has increased staffing levels at Kaiser by about 8 percent over the past 18 months. Meanwhile, Gov. Newsom earlier this year pledged to make enforcing mental health parity laws a top priority and the state legislature is considering landmark legislation that would require health plans to provide return appointments within 10 business days.
“We are better positioned than ever to compel Kaiser and other healthcare providers to stop treating mental health as a secondary concern,” Rosselli said. “Kaiser has the resources to lead the way on mental health care and thousands of clinicians are ready and willing to help it become a national model.”