The mental health equity law, Senate Bill 221, went into effect in July and requires health insurers to offer return appointments for mental health and substance use patients no more than 10 days after a previous session.
The American Psychological Association recommends weekly therapy for people with depression—twice that for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
This month-long strike is about patient care. Kaiser therapists want the organization to provide the same level of mental health care as it does for medical services, according to an NUHW statement.
Impressive therapists have now lost multiple pay checks as they stand firm on their terms.
“We will continue to strike until Kaiser stops gambling with patients’ lives and works with therapists to create a system that provides patients with the care they need to get better,” said Kimberly Hollingsworth-Horner, a therapist for Kaiser in Fresno.
Hollingsworth-Horner, who also serves on the negotiating committee, said going unpaid for a month had been “difficult” but “nothing” compared to the months-long waits between therapy sessions that patients have endured with years.
California fined Kaiser $4 million in 2013 for delayed and denied mental health care, but wait times for mental health care have not improved.
The NUHW said in a fact sheet about the strike that Kaiser has failed to increase staffing despite an increase in demand for mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, Kaiser appears to be hemorrhaging clinicians: the union says 377 have left the company between June 2021 and May 2022 in the Northern California region. Over 660 have been laid off, company-wide.
An NUHW survey of more than 200 outgoing clinicians found that 80 per cent considered their workload unsustainable and 70 per cent cited an inability to “treat patients in accordance with standards of care and medical necessity”.
Instead of walking away, clinicians on the control lines are working to change the way Kaiser manages its mental health department.
Melody Bumgardner, a psychologist who works at Kaiser Santa Clara and the Campbell satellite, has worked for Kaiser for 22 years and said the organization had better working conditions in her first decade working there, but conditions and turnover have worsened in recent years. last.
“When I first started working here, we were fully staffed,” Bumgardner said at the checkout line outside Kaiser San Jose on Thursday. “It used to be hard to get a job at Kaiser. People wanted to work here and people stayed a long time. But in the last 10 years, most people who start usually leave before they’ve been here three or five. years.”
Bumgardner said she has stayed with the company so long because she values working with the “diverse population” of patients she sees and the relationships she has built with colleagues over the past two decades. She also wants to see real change, for Kaiser to use its “tremendous resources” to provide more timely mental health services to its members.
“We are standing up to Kaiser with this strike and standing up for patients who have been denied adequate mental health care for too long,” said Jeffrey Chen-Harding, a licensed clinical social worker for Kaiser in San Francisco. .
Despite Wednesday’s impasse, Kaiser has refused to schedule further bargaining sessions with the union and has no further talks currently scheduled. Officials with Kaiser were not immediately available to comment on the latest union negotiations.
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