SF Supervisors approve mental health resolution as political pressure builds against Kaiser

April 30th, 2019

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday, April 23, calling on Kaiser Permanente to achieve “full parity for mental health patients.”

The resolution, introduced by Supervisor Hillary Ronen, also calls on Kaiser to sufficiently staff mental health clinics to reduce lengthy appointment wait times; limit wait times to no more than ten days for return appointments for most patients; and strictly limit Kaiser’s practice of referring out more than 60,000 California patients per year to non-Kaiser therapists who often lack access to patients’ medical records and can’t coordinate their care with Kaiser doctors.

Kaiser officials pushed hard behind the scenes to defeat the resolution and spoke against it during the meeting. But they still couldn’t muster a single vote.

“The mental health crisis in our city impacts every resident at every economic level,” Ronen said. “As the largest private provider of mental health care, Kaiser must ensure access to timely mental health care and early treatment to all its members. Without mental health parity across both our private and public systems, we will not be able to address the scale of untreated mental illness that we are experiencing in San Francisco today.”

The resolution puts supervisors on record supporting proposals made by Kaiser’s nearly 4,000 NUHW-represented psychologists, therapists, and social workers. Cities and other counties will likely be considering similar resolutions in the coming weeks.

One day after the San Francisco resolution, Kaiser clinicians traveled to Sacramento to inform lawmakers about the struggles their patients face getting timely care. One staffer informed NUHW members that she had issues accessing mental health care from Kaiser. Others were surprised to learn that wait times were so long.

“We really brought home the point that patients aren’t getting care,” said Ken Rogers, a Kaiser psychologist and NUHW vice president. “Delays are one thing, but when they heard that delays were up to four months in Southern California and two months in the Northern California, they really took notice.”