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    Kaiser mental health workers to strike

    AUGUST 2, 2022

    CalMatters

    Today, more than 2,000 Kaiser Permanent mental health workers are set to launch an open-ended strike in Northern California and the Central Valley to protest what they say are unsustainable clinician workloads and lengthy appointment waits in violation of a new state law requiring follow-up mental health care for most patients within 10 business days. The National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents the striking clinicians, alleged in a Thursday complaint to state health regulators that Kaiser is canceling thousands of behavioral health appointments and isn’t providing patients with alternatives in violation of state law. The union also said it reached a deal with Kaiser on wages during Friday and Saturday bargaining sessions but other issues, such as staffing and dividing providers’ time between patient appointments and administrative tasks, remained unresolved. Further bargaining sessions haven’t been scheduled, according to the union.

    • Jennifer Browning, a licensed clinical worker at Kaiser Roseville and member of the union bargaining team, said in a statement: “We’ve been telling Kaiser executives since Day One that this isn’t about money. It’s about our professional integrity and our ability to provide care that will help patients get better.”
    • Deb Catsavas, senior vice president of human resources at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, said in a statement that some “nonurgent” appointments may need to be rescheduled, though Kaiser has “expanded our network of high-quality community providers and will continue to prioritize urgent and emergency care.” She added, “The union is well aware that its’ (sic) decision to strike is intended to hurt Kaiser Permanente’s ability to meet the needs of our patients: that is the point of the strike. The reality is that this strike, like the union’s proposal to reduce appointment time, will only make fewer providers available for mental health care, at a time of unprecedented demand. This strike is an unnecessary tactic to increase the union’s leverage at the bargaining table, making it harder, not easier, to deliver mental health care.”

    Speaking of mental health care, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco said Friday that he plans to table his controversial bill to decriminalize certain psychedelic drugs after it was amended in a secretive legislative process to only authorize studying such a move. “I am looking forward to reintroducing this legislation next year and continuing to make the case that it’s time to end the War on Drugs. Psychedelic drugs, which are not addictive, have incredible promise when it comes to mental health and addiction treatment. We are not giving up,” Wiener said in a statement.


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