Patrick J. Kennedy to join mental health clinicians on the picket line in San Francisco as strike starts Monday, Nov. 16

November 13th, 2015

PATRICK J. KENNEDY TO JOIN MENTAL HEALTH CLINICIANS ON THE PICKET LINE IN SAN FRANCISCO AS STRIKE BEGINS AT 50 KAISER SITES in NORTHERN CALIF. MON., NOV. 16

Kennedy and Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane to speak at 11 a.m., 2425 Geary Blvd.  

 

OAKLAND — Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy will join Kaiser mental health clinicians on the picket line in San Francisco for the launch of an open-ended strike that begins Mon., Nov. 16. Kennedy has been traveling the country advocating for improvements in the health care system and declaring that quality mental health care should be treated as a civil right. Just as his uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, marched with the farmworkers in California a generation ago, Patrick Kennedy is standing in solidarity with workers. Only today’s strikers are fighting for the rights of patients who have seen their healthcare delayed or denied despite having purchased health insurance through Kaiser.

Patrick Kennedy has long advocated for improvements in mental health care. He was a key figure in the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008, which requires health plans like Kaiser to provide care that is on par with their primary health care services. In 2010, Kennedy co-founded One Mind, an international forum dedicated to searching for cures for mental illnesses. 

Clinicians will also be supported on the picket line in San Francisco by Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a nationally recognized leader on health and human services issues and a vocal critic of Kaiser’s mental health services. Zane’s husband, Peter Kingston, took his own life in 2011 while waiting six weeks for a therapy appointment at Kaiser in Santa Rosa. 

The picket line and 11 a.m. rally will be held in front of Kaiser’s San Francisco Medical Center at 2425 Geary Blvd.

Kaiser’s 1,400 Northern California mental health clinicians — psychologists, therapists, and social workers represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers — are calling on the giant HMO to hire enough workers to adequately staff its psychiatric departments and also to end its retaliation against its clinicians for their patient advocacy. 

“The problem is simple and so is the solution,” said NUHW President Sal Rosselli. “Kaiser needs to hire enough clinicians to provide timely, appropriate care to the ever-growing number of Kaiser members seeking help.  And this company must stop its retaliation against the caregivers who are courageously standing up for their patients.” 

Patients and clinicians are reporting that Kaiser, despite its legal obligation to provide care during the strike, is unilaterally canceling appointments without consulting the therapists caring for them. NUHW will file a complaint regarding the cancellations with the Department of Managed Health Care. 

“Kaiser has been telling the press that services will continue without interruption, but these blanket cancellations show that’s clearly false,” said Rosselli. “Federal law requires Kaiser to care for these patients. Kaiser created this crisis, and they had plenty of notice that a strike would occur if they refused to deal with it.” 

Clinicians are protesting Kaiser’s:

• Persistent violations of state laws governing mental health care

• Failure to provide patients with timely, quality mental health services

• Profit-driven refusal to staff its clinics adequately to meet ever-growing demand

• Retaliation against whistleblowers who have brought Kaiser’s legal and ethical violations to light

For more information, see NUHW’s press release and three-minute video that explains the patient care issues at the heart of the strike at http://NUHW.org/Kaiser

For a schedule of pickets and contact information for local clinicians, see https://nuhw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20151116-Kaiser-mental-health-picket-schedule.pdf. Patients also are available to discuss their experiences with Kaiser. 

 

The National Union of Healthcare Workers is a democratic, member-led union that represents 11,000 California healthcare workers, Kaiser mental health clinicians, optical workers, and healthcare professionals.

 

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Justin DeFreitas

Communications Coordinator

National Union of Healthcare Workers

NUHW.org

jdefreitas@nuhw.org

(510) 701-1415