Kaiser Mental Health Clinicians Strike
Kaiser mental health clinicians are mobilizing to demand better pay and working conditions. They have been picketing Kaiser hospitals and clinics throughout the San Francisco Bay Area in an effort to gain support.
The National Union of Healthcare Workers represents thousands of therapists, psychologists, social workers and addiction counselors employed at Kaiser. Since Aug. 15th when labor talks broke down, these workers have been picketing Kaiser facilities.
According to a report by the union, patients with mental illness are often forced to wait weeks or months before getting an appointment for their next step in care. During that time, symptoms may worsen and require further medical intervention.
In addition to the wait, many people with mental health needs struggle to locate a therapist at Kaiser or other health insurance companies. They may end up on “ghost lists,” where they search for someone with the right training but are uncertain whether their provider has an agreement or not; and in many cases are referred to providers who have no contract whatsoever with their insurers, according to Kaiser members.
Due to the strike, some mental health clinicians are taking on extra work. Others have stepped in to offer wraparound services like telehealth and online mental health support.
They are also helping those living with mental illness who don’t have health insurance to determine if they qualify for state subsidies that cover out-of-network mental health care.
According to state law, health plans must maintain timely access and clinical standards at all times – even during an employee strike. According to Department of Managed Health Care spokesperson Rachel Arrezola in an email, Kaiser is being closely monitored for compliance with this law during their strike.