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Kaiser mental health clinicians to strike in Simi Valley Monday; rally Tuesday in Los Angeles

SIMI VALLEY – Mental health clinicians in Kaiser’s Simi Valley clinic will go on strike Monday, Oct. 28 and Tuesday, Oct. 29 to protest the lack of parity for both mental health care patients and caregivers in the Kaiser system. More than a dozen psychologists, social workers, therapists and psychiatric nurses will picket outside their clinic on Monday. 

On Tuesday, they will be joined by striking mental health clinicians from Kaiser’s Lomita clinic for a rally outside Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center, where clinicians have maintained an ongoing presence for the past two weeks.

MONDAY
WHAT: Strike outside Kaiser Simi Valley Medical Offices
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28
WHERE: Simi Valley Medical Offices, 3855 Alamo St., Suite A, Simi Valley, CA 93063

TUESDAY
WHAT: Strike by Kaiser mental health therapists working at clinics in Simi Valley and Lomita
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Rally and picket outside Los Angeles Medical Center (Corner of W. Sunset Boulevard and N. Edgemont Drive)
*NOTE: There will be not actions outside the Simi Valley and Lomita clinics on Tuesday. Mental health therapists at the Lomita clinic are only striking on Tuesday.

The caregivers at the Simi Valley and Lomita clinics are part of the 4,000 Kaiser mental health clinicians and healthcare professionals who have announced a 5-day statewide strike scheduled to begin Monday, Nov. 11. However, they voted to hold additional strikes in advance of the statewide work stoppage to protest Kaiser’s claim that it’s prioritizing mental health care when it refuses to offer its mental health clinicians the same benefits as nearly all its other unionized workers.

While Kaiser recently agreed to maintain pensions for 140,000 employees, it’s refusing to restore pensions for mental health clinicians that Kaiser unilaterally rescinded in 2015. 

“Every Kaiser employee at my clinic has a pension, except for me and my fellow mental health clinicians,” said Patricia Cruz, a therapist at the Simi Valley clinic. “That includes appointment clerks, medical assistants, customer service representatives and housekeepers. This makes it harder for Kaiser to recruit and retain qualified clinicians, and leaves patients waiting too long to receive care. Kaiser says it wants to hire more therapists to address staff shortages. But how can we take Kaiser seriously when it’s offering mental health clinicians benefits that are vastly inferior to 140,000 other employees?”

Kaiser has been fined $4 million and forced to accept ongoing state-ordered outside monitoring of its mental health program for multiple violations of California’s Mental Health Parity Act. While Kaiser has begun trying to hire more therapists, its clinics remain severely understaffed, leaving Kaiser unable to keep pace with enrollment growth, increasing demand for mental health services and resignations from caregivers who can’t handle unsustainable patient loads. At Simi Valley, a majority of clinicians report that appointment wait times have grown longer over the past two years.

“Kaiser mental health clinicians are working through their breaks and into their evenings providing care to patients who must wait weeks or even months for therapy appointments,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli said. “These clinicians deserve the same percentage wage increases and the same health and pension benefits as the 140,000 other unionized Kaiser employees. Denying that same pension for hundreds of Kaiser mental health workers in Southern California is more than unfair — it makes it harder for Kaiser to recruit and retain clinicians and makes a mockery of their claims that they are seriously trying to do so.”

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