Press release: Mental health clinicians launch statewide actions protesting Kaiser Permanente’s failure to provide timely mental health care

October 10th, 2019

Round-the-clock presence to be established Sunday outside Kaiser’s Oakland headquarters and Monday outside Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center, where clinicians will assemble 60-foot-long mental health monuments

OAKLAND — Nearly 4,000 psychologists, social workers, therapists, and other Kaiser professionals are escalating their campaign to force Kaiser Permanente to fix its broken mental health system by establishing an ongoing presence outside Kaiser’s corporate headquarters in Oakland and its Los Angeles Medical Center.

Mental health clinicians will stake their claim to the plaza outside the Ordway Building on Sunday, October 13 and in Los Angeles on Monday, October 14. Together with community allies and elected officials, they will hold rallies and assemble 60-foot-long monuments that will be adorned with some of the hundreds of stories submitted by Kaiser patients about their struggles to access mental health care from the giant HMO.

WHAT: Assembling of 60-foot long mental health memorial monument to launch 24/7 vigil by Kaiser mental health clinicians
OAKLAND: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, October 13, with rally at 2 p.m., Ordway Building, 1 Kaiser Plaza, Oakland.
LOS ANGELES: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday at Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center, 4867 West Sunset Blvd. (at corner of N. Edgemont), Los Angeles

“The situation at Kaiser clinics is not sustainable,” said Mickey Fitzpatrick, a psychologist at Kaiser’s clinic in Pleasanton. “Our schedules are completely booked many weeks in advance, and our patients are being forced to wait much too long for therapy appointments. We’re so desperate to fit in patients who are going through some of the hardest times of their lives that we skip lunches and work after-hours responding to patient emails and doing all the paperwork we never get to do during the day. We’re dealing with vulnerable people, but Kaiser wants us to operate like we’re making widgets on a factory floor. That doesn’t work. Clinicians are burning out, and patients aren’t getting the care they need.”

Clinicians and allies will maintain a continuous presence at the two sites, where they will hold multiple gatherings calling attention to the struggles their patients face in accessing care and their inability to provide as many therapy appointments within a time frame that is clinically appropriate.

Kaiser mental health clinicians have been fighting for nearly a decade to make the HMO treat mental health care with the same urgency and commitment as physical health care. Their whistle-blower complaint resulted in Kaiser having to pay a $4 million state fine and accept ongoing state-ordered outside monitoring of its mental health program. Nonetheless, appointment wait times have grown to exceed two months at many clinics and clinicians report having to constantly schedule their patients’ return appointments further into the future than is clinically appropriate.

“Kaiser wouldn’t tell someone with kidney disease that their next dialysis appointment is two months away, but that’s how it has treated its mental health care patients for years,” said Sal Rosselli, President of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents Kaiser mental health clinicians. “Since Kaiser executives aren’t taking meaningful action to address this crisis, mental health clinicians have decided to confront them face-to-face, day-after-day.”

Kaiser mental health clinicians have worked without a contract since October 2018. In August, Kaiser rejected a settlement proposal from clinicians that would have ensured the hiring of additional full-time clinicians to significantly reduce appointment wait times, established crisis services at every clinic, and provided clinicians sufficient time to conduct critical patient care including following up on referrals, responding to patient calls and communicating with social service agencies. Last month, Kaiser withdrew a proposed cost-of-living raise for clinicians in retaliation for refusing to agree to Kaiser’s proposals, which lacked those patient protections.