Tag Archives: mental health

Press Democrat: “Kaiser Mental Health Services Under Fire at Forum”

Last night a public forum was held in Santa Rosa to discuss the issue of mental health parity. Most of the attendees, speaking about their own personal experiences, focused their criticism on Kaiser Permanente’s substandard mental health services.

“Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Services Under Fire at Forum”
by Martin Espinoza, September 24, 2014

StaRosaPressDemo-KaiserUnderFireAtForum9-24-14Kaiser Permanente’s local mental health services were strongly criticized Wednesday evening during a public forum in Santa Rosa aimed at spotlighting laws that require insurance providers to offer equal coverage for both mental health and physical health conditions.

A majority of the at least 40 speakers who addressed a panel, which included state and federal health care officials, blasted Kaiser, saying the HMO had failed to provide adequate and timely mental health services.

Jessica Birrer, 34, of Santa Rosa said she has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for 12 years. Birrer said she has not received sufficient care from Kaiser mental health professionals, whom she has seen only three times in the past two years, twice related to medication services and once for therapy treatment.

“I have done everything I can to receive the treatment that I need,” Birrer said. “Until I get the treatment I need, I won’t give up on myself. As far as I’m concerned Kaiser has given up on me.”

To read the entire article, click here: “Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Services Under Fire at Forum.

Public Form: Parity and Mental Health with Supervisor Shirlee Zane and Congressman Mike Thompson

Public Form with Shirlee Zane about Parity and Mental Health

When: Wednesday, September 24, 6-8 pm
Where: Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 575 Administration Drive, Room 102A, Santa Rosa, CA

Shirlee ZaneSonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, an outspoken advocate for mental health parity, will be speaking at a forum this coming Wednesday, September 24th. Other panelists will include California State Assemblymember Mariko Yamada; Bonnie Preston, Policy and Outreach Specialist, US Department of Health and Human Services Region IX; Sherrie Lowenstein, Deputy Director for Legislative Affairs, California Department of Managed Health Care; Brenda Grealish, Chief of Mental Health Services Division, California Department of Health Care Services.

Description of the event: “The Affordable Care Act provides one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance use disorder coverage in a generation, requiring that health insurance plans on the Health Insurance Marketplaces cover mental health and substance use disorder services.

“This forum and listening session will provide the public with an opportunity to ask questions and report to their elected officials and agency representatives on individual experiences with mental health care and whether health plans are achieving mental health and substance use parity, meaning coverage for mental health and substance abuse services generally are on par with those for medical and surgical services.”

Click here for the flyer: Mental Health Parity Forum, Sonoma County

Kaiser Admits Guilt and Pays $4 Million Fine

Kaiser HQIn early 2013, the Department of Managed Health Care levied a $4 million fine against Kaiser for “serious” and “systemic” violations of state law in its mental health care services across California. Since then, the fine has been on hold because of an appeal initiated by Kaiser. But on September 8, Kaiser essentially admitted guilt. Rather than go through a appeals hearing, which would be open to the public, Kaiser decided to just pay the $4 million. Kaiser may have chosen to pay the fine rather than go through the hearing because mental health clinicians from Kaiser hospitals were scheduled to give testimony about past and ongoing serious problems with Kaiser’s mental health services. These include, among other problems, long wait times for mental health appointments and patients being slotted into group therapy even when individual therapy would be clinically appropriate.

What’s the next step? This fall the Department of Managed Health Care is planning to issue the results of follow-up survey assessing Kaiser’s efforts to fix problems with its mental health services. If the DMHC finds that problems persist, an additional fine can be levied and corrective actions will be required.

This recent development has been covered in several news outlets. The following story was published in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on September 10, 2014. To see all of the press coverage, click here: Press about the $4 Million Fine.

Kaiser Agrees to Pay $4 Million Fine Over Mental Health Services, by Martin Espinoza

Ending a yearlong challenge, Kaiser Permanente will pay a $4 million fine levied by state regulators who accused the HMO of “serious deficiencies” in providing its members with timely access to mental health services.


The state Department of Managed Health Care imposed the fine — the second-largest ever in the agency’s 14-year history — in June 2013. Regulators alleged Kaiser was not accurately tracking patients’ access to its therapists. The agency also said Kaiser could not ensure that patients were offered timely initial appointments with therapists for non-urgent matters, in violation of state regulations.

Kaiser challenged the fine, saying it was excessive and unwarranted. But it withdrew its appeal Monday night, hours before Kaiser representatives and state regulators were scheduled to give opening statements in a hearing Tuesday before an administrative law judge in Oakland.

The Department of Managed Health Care is conducting a follow-up survey to determine whether Kaiser has corrected its alleged deficiencies and is complying with the law, said Shelley Rouillard, the agency’s director.


“Kaiser finally acknowledged its violations after a year and a half of fighting a cease and desist order” from state regulators, said Sal Rosselli, president of the union. “But it has yet to take any meaningful steps to correct the underlying problems in its mental health care system.”

To read the full story: “Kaiser Agrees to Pay $4 Million Fine”

SF Examiner Op-Ed: Kaiser Must be Held Accountable for Mental Health Care Failures

The San Francisco Examiner recently published an op-ed by Sal Roselli, the president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, calling on the Department of Managed Health Care to hold Kaiser Accountable for the various problems with its mental health care services.

Kaiser Must be Held Accountable for Mental Health Care Failures, by Sal Roselli

September 4, 2014

Kaiser Permanente is failing its mental health patients.

kaiser photoSpurred by whistle-blower complaints from Kaiser’s own mental health clinicians, an investigation by the state’s Department of Managed Health Care found the HMO guilty of serious and systemic violations of California law that put mental health patients at risk. The result: In June 2013, the DMHC levied a $4 million fine — the second-largest in the agency’s history — against Kaiser for forcing thousands of patients to endure illegally lengthy waits for care, falsifying patients’ appointment records, and violating the California Mental Health Parity Act, which requires HMOs to provide psychiatric services that are on par with their primary health services.

“Kaiser appealed, of course, but now faces the prospect of a hearing, scheduled to begin Monday in Oakland, during which patients and whistle-blowers would give public testimony regarding Kaiser’s deficient care. For weeks, Kaiser has been negotiating a settlement with the DMHC in hopes of avoiding such a spectacle, and a settlement is indeed likely given Kaiser’s political connections.

“The National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents 2,500 mental health professionals at more than 100 facilities throughout California, stands with the thousands of patients who have suffered as a result of Kaiser’s violations in calling for the DMHC to hold Kaiser accountable.”

To read the full op-ed, click here: SF Examiner: Kaiser Must be Held Accountable.

Deadly Delays: Kaiser’s Flawed Model for Care

East Bay Express Image In its August 13-19, 2014 issue, East Bay Express published the first in a two-part series on the serious problems with Kaiser’s mental health services.

A Flawed Model for Care

Kaiser Permanente has been held up as a national model for healthcare, but critics contend that it routinely fails to adequately serve patients with mental health problems.

By Jake Nicol

Fred Paroutaud had a gift. Music was a language he had been speaking his entire life. He loved the way he could express himself with his long fingers and piano keys. Tall and slim with salt-and-pepper hair, the Richmond resident had even found a way to make a successful living from it: composing scores for television and movies.

Yet despite having no history of mental illness or drug addiction, Paroutaud suffered a psychotic breakdown at age 57. Unsure of what was happening, his wife, Susan Futterman, took him to see his regular doctor at their health provider Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael and was referred to the emergency room. ER staffers then promptly sent Paroutaud to a private, Kaiser-contracted psychiatric facility in Vallejo — St. Helena Hospital Center for Behavioral Health. During Paroutaud’s 72-hour stay at the facility, doctors diagnosed him with having bipolar disorder, otherwise known as manic-depressive illness. Yet despite the fact that Paroutaud was still suffering from hallucinations, doctors discharged him.

Kaiser mental health therapists put Paroutaud in an intensive outpatient group therapy program that included four-hour-a-day sessions four days a week. But most of the other patients in the program were recovering from substance abuse, so Paroutaud felt out of place. He requested to see a therapist one-on-one. Instead, doctors prescribed him with medication, which proved ineffective. Soon he stopped taking it.

Futterman didn’t know what to do with him. He was no longer the confident, caring husband she knew. One day, she found him standing alone in the kitchen of their home in the city’s Point Richmond district, staring at the floor, his eyes unfocused. He was getting worse.

Paroutaud’s unresponsiveness worried Futterman more than his psychotic outbursts. He had a large group of friends that he suddenly had no interest in. He had been an avid vintage car enthusiast and owned a 1967 Lamborghini that he restored himself. He had even helped create an online forum about vintage Lamborghinis. But he had become consumed by a deep depression and was no longer interested in his hobby.

Futterman called Kaiser and asked to set up an appointment between Paroutaud and his psychiatrist. She said she was told that the psychiatrist was on vacation and that no one was covering his patients while he was away. Kaiser staffers recommended that Paroutaud return to group therapy and continue taking his medication. She said she was told repeatedly that Kaiser doesn’t offer one-on-one therapy.

Desperate, Futterman called Kaiser every day for two weeks begging to have her husband seen by a therapist. On June 28, 2012, exactly two months after Paroutaud’s initial breakdown, Futterman came home to find her husband in their living room hanging from a rope tied around his neck. She cut him down and frantically tried to revive her husband with CPR.

It was too late. Paroutaud’s suicide was a tragic end to his brief-yet-intense battle with mental illness.

To read the full story, click here: A Flawed Model for Care.


Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane Given Mental Health Award

“Marine Veteran Matthew Jensen and Shirlee Zane receiving California State NAMI awards…”‘We both share the same vision…to end suicide and remove stigma from mental illness…both Kaiser and the VA need to stop rationing care, provide parity or equal mental health treatment….saving 1,000’s of lives and preventing needless suffering.'” ~ Suervisor Zane (Sonoma County Gazette, August 1, 2014).

The National Association on Mental Health has announced that it is giving Sonoma County Supervisors Shirlee Zane its 2014 Recovery Practitioner of the Year award. Zane has recently spoken out about the poor quality of Kaiser’s mental health services. To read the full story, click here: “Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane Receives Mental Health Award.”



KQED Radio Reports on Long Waits at Kaiser for Mental Health Care

Kaiser imageOn July 21, 2014, KQED’s California Report aired a segment on Kaiser’s lengthy wait times for mental health appointments. One therapist who specializes in geriatric care said she wrote to her supervisors to tell them, “I can’t tell a patient that has six months to live that I’ll see them in five months.”

To listen to the story, click here: “Kaiser Therapists, Patients Allege Long Waits for Mental Health Care.”

KQED: Therapists, Patients Criticize Kaiser Over Long Delays for Therapy

Kaiser Bldg OaklandKQED has published the second of a two-part series on problems with Kaiser’s mental health services. The reporter, Jon Brooks, spoke to “some two dozen current and former Kaiser clinicians and mental health patients as well as outside therapists.” He found that the vast majority of the people he talked to complained that Kaiser overly relies on group therapy even when individual, one-on-one therapy would be more effective, and that patients continue to wait for weeks or sometimes months for therapy appointments.

One Kaiser therapist expressed her concerns: “I feel unethical when I go home at night, and feel really guilty,” she said. “People are suffering, and I fear some of my patients will commit suicide for lack of ongoing treatment, but I’m powerless to treat them because I don’t have return visits available.”

One patient, suffering from panic disorder, recounts her experiences being slotted into group therapy. The reporter relates, “she was sent to a group, where she says the discussions triggered her anxiety attacks. She estimated the number of patients in another group at about two dozen — “like cattle in there, how can anyone’s needs be met?” she said. So she quit.”

To read the full article, click here: KQED: Therapists, Patients Criticize Kaiser Over Long Delays for Therapy.

KQED Series on Kaiser’s Mental Health Services

KP ImageOn July 1, 2014 KQED published the first in a series of reports about Kaiser’s mental services. In “Sonoma Co. Supervisor Presses Kaiser on Mental Health Services,” Jon Brooks reports on Zane’s intention to draw on her husband’s suicide in 2011 to push for improvements to Kaiser’s mental health services, in the hope that extensive problems with Kaiser’s provision of mental health care do not result in additional suicides and suffering. Zane expressed her frustrations: “I can tell you I have heard a lot of stories within the last few days about these types of incidents over and over again–of people who were so wronged by their treatment, by either being referred out of the system or by saying, ‘We don’t have the appointments.'”

Santa Rosa Press Democrat Covers Problems with Kaiser’s Mental Healthcare

WeiskoffThe Press Democrat recently published a number of stories covering the problems with Kaiser’s mental health services. Martin Espinoza, in “Kaiser’s mental health care at heart of dispute,” published on June 14, 2014, tells Andy Weisskoff’s story. Weisskoff, a psychotherapist, recently announced his intention to resign from his job at Kaiser because of his first-hand experiences with the declining quality of care being provided to Kaiser’s mental health patients. Most prominently, Weiskoff cited understaffing of Kaiser’s mental health services, resulting in excessive wait times for appointments and patients being improperly assigned to group therapy when individual therapy would be most appropriate. Once he’d announced his resignation, Weiskoff wrote over 60 blog posts detailing the problems at Kaiser. Visit his blog by clicking here: 90 Days to Change. (You can read the full Press Democrat article here: Kaiser’s mental health care at heart of dispute).

ZaneIn June, The Press Democrat also reported on the criticisms of Kaiser expressed by Santa Rosa County Supervisor Shirlee Zane. Zane accused Kaiser of failing her husband, Peter Kingston, which led to his suicide in January, 2011. Zane revealed that Kaiser did not ask her husband if he had previously ever attempted suicide, made him wait for more than 40 days for his first one-on-one appointment, and did not effectively monitor doses of his medication. Given these serious failures by Kaiser, Zane, who is also a trained family counselor and grief specialist, questioned whether or not Sonoma County’s should contract with Kaiser Permanente. (Read the news stories about Shirlee Zane: Supervisor Shirlee Zane critical of Kaiser, therapist and Shirlee Zane questions county’s Kaiser contract after mental health dispute).