Kaiser mental health clinicians protest outside company facilities in Oakland, Los Angeles

Mental health clinicians of Kaiser Permanente protested Oct. 13 and Oct. 14 what they called barriers to mental health access outside two of the healthcare giant's facilities in Oakland, Calif., and Los Angeles.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents about 4,000 Kaiser psychologists, social workers, therapists, psychiatric nurses and other mental health clinicians, said workers are calling on Kaiser to "fix its broken mental health system" by providing timely care.

"The situation at Kaiser clinics is not sustainable," Mickey Fitzpatrick, a psychologist at Kaiser's clinic in Pleasanton, Calif., said in a news release. "Our schedules are completely booked many weeks in advance, and our patients are being forced to wait much too long for therapy appointments."

Outside Kaiser's Oakland, Calif., headquarters, workers rallied and assembled a 60-foot-long monument that showcased Kaiser patient stories about their struggles to access mental healthcare.

Kaiser mental health clinicians in Southern California participated in a similar protest Oct. 14 outside Kaiser's Los Angeles Medical Center.

A union representative told Becker's about 100 workers protested in Los Angeles Oct. 14 during working hours, and 140 to 150 people, including workers and community allies, protested in Oakland Oct. 13. 

The protests come amid contract negotiations between Kaiser and the union that have gone on for more than a year. 

In a written statement, Kaiser complained that its contract proposals had been in the hands of the National Union of Healthcare Workers since mid-June, and the health system "expected NUHW leaders would quickly confirm that our proposal to their union was fair and mutually beneficial and could now be approved."

The statement accused union leaders of "failing to acknowledge either the many great steps Kaiser Permanente has taken to address the dramatic increase in demand for mental health services, or that the union's refusal to agree on a contract has prevented us from taking additional steps collaboratively with our therapists to meet this challenge."

 

Editor's note: This story was updated on Oct. 15.

 

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