Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane’s letter to Kaiser officials

California Pacific Medical CenterJune 20, 2014

Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane sent the following letter to Kaiser Permanente officials following the publication of three stories about Kaiser’s failures in mental health care in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. 

Dr. Mordecai, Mr. Nelson and Dr. Turner:

I cannot begin to tell you how upsetting and offensive it was to read your remarks in Martin Espinoza’s Press Democrat articles in the June 13 and June 15 editions. To blame a labor dispute for the deficiency in Kaiser’s delivery of mental health services is the lowest form of scapegoating I have ever seen. As the widow of a Kaiser patient who was so grossly undertreated for severe depression that he hung himself, I am literally sickened that you have concocted such a callous and unfounded defense for the broken healthcare system you represent. As an educated woman, your comments strike me as extremely insulting and even dangerous.

To dismiss employee and union allegations as “misleading and exaggerated” shows that Kaiser chooses to ignore the critical problems inherent in its mental health service delivery model. My husband might be alive today but for Kaiser’s disregard for “patient-centered services.” Whatever happened to the idea that Kaiser would provide-patient centered services? My observation is that Kaiser provides Kaiser-centered services!

I am a Sonoma County Supervisor who each year approves one of Kaiser’s largest contracts. It troubles me that I am hearing my story echoed by so many other northern California subscribers and I am beginning to wonder how I can, in good faith, approve for County employees healthcare services that I know to be dangerously inadequate.

If you continue to blame unions and employees for the fatal flaw in the way Kaiser delivers (rations) mental health care, Kaiser will continue to needlessly lose lives like my husband’s.

As a trained Family Therapist, you should know that all accredited universities and colleges are spending 95% of their training on individual, family and couple therapy. Only about 5% of advanced educational curriculum focuses on group therapy. Your comments on best practices is not consistent with educational training for mental health professionals. Group therapy for an acutely depressed person is mistreatment and could be compared with administering an aspirin for a Migraine patient who appears in your Emergency Room.

Moreover, to ask people who are acutely depressed or have experienced deep trauma and anxiety disorders to divulge their pain and wounds to perfect strangers in a group setting is akin to malpractice. The therapeutic healing of groups is always voluntary and applies to only certain mental health issues and normal transitional life losses, such as grief and substance abuse. The other patients who participate in these groups have no ethical or legal obligation to maintaining confidentiality.

Your arrogance is shameful and I am prepared to ensure that every single Kaiser member from the County of Sonoma will not have to suffer my profound loss due to your inexcusable policies pertaining to mental health services and the rationing of those services to maintain your bottom line.



Supervisor Shirlee Zane
County of Sonoma, Third District