Kaiser’s Mental Health Clinicians Authorize Statewide Strike

After a weeklong strike in December (during which former Congressman Patrick Kennedy joined clinicians on picket lines), NUHW’s 4,000 therapists and professionals returned to the bargaining table to press Kaiser to fix the chronic understaffing that has forced many patients to wait months between treatment appointments.

Unfortunately, despite six additional months of bargaining, Kaiser still has not agreed to fix the systemic, well-documented violations for which the HMO was fined $4 million and remains under state-ordered monitoring.

Last week, therapists announced they had voted overwhelmingly to conduct a second statewide strike of unlimited duration unless Kaiser agrees to fix these problems now. Strikes are always a measure of last resort, and therapists’ decision to take this step is based on their judgment that if they don’t hold Kaiser accountable to implement real solutions now, Kaiser’s mental health crisis will continue indefinitely.

This week, therapists will return to the bargaining table and make another push to have Kaiser’s agree to make real reforms and to avert a strike.

How can you help?

Please share this e-mail with your colleagues and contacts. In the event of a strike, we’ll send you a link to a social media toolkit with suggested posts you can share on your social media channels. We’ll be in touch with additional news and opportunities to support our efforts.

Below is a recap of therapists’ recent activities.

Survey Captures Understaffing Problems

Last month, therapists documented the impact of understaffing on their patients in a statewide survey. More than 90% of therapists reported that weekly individual appointments are unavailable to patients who need them. 71% reported that their patients’ appointment wait times have grown worse during the past 24 months, and 77% reported that every day they must book appointments further into the future than is clinically appropriate.

Outreach to Patients

Last fall, therapists launched a website – www.KaiserDontDeny.org – to capture patients’ experiences. To date, 750 patients have shared their stories, some of which you can view here. NUHW has worked with patients and Kaiser to address scores of individual patients’ problems in obtaining care.

One-day Over Four-Month Appointment Waits

At Kaiser’s mental health clinic in Pasadena, therapists conducted a one-day strike last month to protest patients’ wait times of three to four  months between appointments. Here’s a one-minute video of a therapist describing the horrendous problems there.

Therapists Back Families’ Push for Improved Care

On April 17, therapists joined patients and families to support their request to meet with Kaiser’s CEO and share their difficult experiences with Kaiser’s system of delayed care. Kaiser’s CEO initially ignored their request, but eventually agreed to meet following a rally at the HMO’s national headquarters that garnered major press coverage. Here’s a video about the experience of one family who lost their 18-year-old daughter to suicide.

Elected Officials Back Therapists’ Proposals

Earlier this month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a resolution expressing their support for therapists’ efforts. See this short video of one supervisor speaking about her personal experience with the shortcomings of Kaiser’s mental health services.

In addition, more than 100 local, state and federal elected officials, including the President of California’s Senate and the Speaker of the Assembly, have signed letters to Kaiser’s CEO in support of therapists’ proposals.

Complaints to Oversight Agencies

Therapists have continued their role as whistleblowers by requesting investigations into practices that put their patients at risk. Here are links to a complaint describing sharp cuts to patients’ diagnostic assessment procedures as well as a complaint about Kaiser’s “walk-in” mental health clinics that force patients to wait as long as five hours for evaluations of their mental health and substance use disorders.