SF Supervisor urges Kaiser to fix its mental health services

May 22nd, 2019

San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen knows first-hand that Kaiser its failing too many of its mental health patients. In a May 22 op-ed published in the San Francisco Examiner, she revealed having to intervene on behalf of her friend’s 14-year-old child, who had been expressing thoughts of suicide and was told the first availability to see someone for an initial intake was a month away.

“This is simply acceptable for anyone in crisis, much less for a child. No wonder the state has ordered outside monitoring of Kaiser’s mental health services.”

Because Kaiser’s clinics are chronically understaffed, patients have to wait a month or more for therapy appointments. As a result, many patients pay out-of-pocket for the care they need, or give up on getting help altogether. Those who persist are often pushed into group therapy instead of getting the individual attention they need, or referred out to non-Kaiser therapists, who can’t access patient charts and have few available appointment openings.

On April 23, Ronen and her colleagues on the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to call on Kaiser Permanente to address overstaffing, limit outsourcing, and guarantee Kaiser’s mental health clinicians receive the same pay and benefits as other Kaiser caregivers. “The Board’s resolution should be a wake-up call to Kaiser,” said Ronen. “It’s time for our largest private health care company to step up their game and ensure all their patients can get the critical mental health they need.”