Impressive Kaiser Mental Health Clinician Joins Colleagues in Hawaii People’s World
OAKLAND, Calif. — On the morning of Aug. 29, more than 2,000 striking mental health clinicians opened the Kaiser Permanente in Northern California and the Central Valley as they began the third week of their strike calling for a huge HMO staff. I hit a picket line in front of the facility. To provide timely mental health care to millions of registered patients,
And that day, in addition to psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, addiction health counselors, marriage and family counselors, and members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, dozens of Hawaiis facing even more acute labor shortages. Several colleagues attended.
In Northern California and the Central Valley, Kaiser maintains one clinician for every 2,600 patients, but the clinician’s contract expired last September. In Hawaii, where Kaiser places one clinician for every 5,500 patients, the HMO has repeatedly put negotiations on hold since therapists first formed a union in 2018.
Picketed Monday in front of Kaiser’s flagship Oakland Medical Center, a licensed clinical social worker who is a member of NUHW’s negotiating committee and sees patients when they first seek mental health care. It was Ilana Marcucci Morris.
Mental health is “a physical health issue. We need to treat it like a physical health issue,” she said. I’m here to do it because people like the Kaiser who make billions of dollars have the resources to do the right thing, and I’m asking them to do it.”
When asked about Kaiser’s allegations of an across-the-board shortage of mental health therapists, Marcucci Morris said the real shortage was “clinicians willing to work for Kaiser. I have many colleagues and friends that I have worked with through mental health, just friendships, I am not digging my own grave!
“There is no shortage of mental health workers. There is a shortage of mental health workers willing to accept working conditions at Kaiser.”
Along the picket line, another clinician remarked on a long history of struggles for a truly productive work environment. she said. “Truly, what we face every day is the inability to provide adequate care. We have been trained to give certain treatments to help people heal, but ultimately could not see patients with the consistency needed to receive treatment as designed.”
A longtime but soon-to-be former Kaiser patient marching alongside picketing clinicians described her lifelong struggle with a serious illness that required extensive medication. After receiving mixed and inaccurate messages from Kaiser about the possibilities, he said he had to pay out-of-pocket for one treatment that offered great relief.
“I really appreciate all that my therapists and intake people are doing,” she said. Now I have other insurance that supports my care a little more. ”
One psychologist describes how he joined Kaiser’s mental health clinician staff about 22 years ago after years as a university professor. Mental Health and General Health. We were Kaiser trailblazers, doing things on a large, systemic level. ”
But then she said: I don’t think doing bad things is the whole point, but definitely whatever brings us funding.
Now she says: And I don’t think they have enough respect for the people on the phone. ”
Under California law, Kaiser is required to provide timely mental health care to its members, even during strikes.
On August 24, the DMHC announced it had launched targeted enforcement action against Kaiser based on patient complaints that the HMO had violated these requirements in the first few weeks of the strike.
NUHW president Sal Rosselli said union members were pleased that state officials were “looking into” Kaiser’s illegal medical refusal and called for “immediate intervention” to enforce the law.
“The suffering and neglect Kaiser patients have endured over the past two weeks is unnecessary and illegal, but can be easily remedied,” Rosselli said in a statement. , must end the strike by agreeing to work with us to serve patients and to properly run and staff clinics.Kaiser recognizes the importance of mental health care. It’s time to respect and fundamentally change the way we treat both patients and clinicians.”
The following day, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 858. It was done by Senator Scott Wiener (D. San Francisco), sponsored by Health Access, a statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. If signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, SB 858 would increase the fines that health care providers must pay for violating the Mental Health Parity Act to $25,000 for each he-she incident, up from the current $2,500.