California Mental Health Workers To Take Part In Indefinite Strike

By Beth Leipholtz 06/05/19
The employees would like patients' wait times to be cut, as well as increased access for those looking for therapy.
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Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Workers

A union representing mental health workers announced Monday (June 3) that they will be taking part in an indefinite strike beginning Tuesday (June 11) due to unaddressed concerns about patient care. 

The union represents about 4,000 Kaiser Permanente workers from more than 100 California facilities, according to The Sacramento Bee.

The Bee adds that the National Union of Healthcare Workers is working on a new labor contract and says the employees walking out would like wait times for patients to be cut, as well as increased access for those seeking therapy. 

“We have been working between sessions on some short-term, relief-type efforts,” Kenneth Rogers, a Kaiser psychologist, told the Bee. “but really the problem with us not accepting their last offer was there is no accountability for the patient care and work issues that we had addressed.”

On May 23, Janet A. Liang, the president of Kaiser’s Northern California Region, and Deborah Royalty, chief administrative officer of the Permanente Medical Group, reportedly made an offer to “provide immediate relief to staffing shortages and constraints in appointments.” 

Their offer included a number of actions for the coming 30 days, including expanding recruiter numbers, having a temporary agency focus on crisis intake, scheduling on-call staff for emergency departments, providing more staff for scheduling, and more. 

“We believe these changes will make meaningful, immediate improvement in your daily office schedule,” Royalty and Liang stated in their letter, according to the Bee. “However, these actions are just the beginning, and so together we need to innovate and collaborate to design an integrated model of evidence based care that truly makes Kaiser Permanente the best place to receive care and best place to work in mental health.”

Despite their efforts, Rogers tells the Bee that management hasn’t included these offers in the contract. He says one of the workers' main requests is that their schedule booking requirement decreases from 90% of the time to 80% so that they have more time to respond to emails, take notes, check in with parents of minors, and more. 

“We can’t wait any longer to fix this problem,” Kaiser therapist Alicia Cruz said in a statement. “I work with young people who are suicidal and self-harming, and our group sessions are so crowded that children and their parents have to sit on the floor. We just don’t have the resources at our clinic to provide the services these people need.”

According to the National Union of Healthcare Workers, the union also plans to attend a rally for mental health in Sacramento on Wednesday, June 12. 

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

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