The 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).
In 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).
In March of 2014, Alex Blatt, 70, and his brother-in-law, Murray Deustch, filed a lawsuit against Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Georgia for the poor mental health care services Mr. Blatt received from Kaiser. As a result of Kaiser’s inadequate care, in March of 2012, Mr. Blatt had a “psychotic episode in which he killed his wife Eva and attempted to commit suicide by slashing his wrists.” (Source: Blatt v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia, Inc.)
Two separate class action lawsuits have been filed against Kaiser for denying patients access to mental health services. These lawsuits serve to underscore the severity of Kaiser’s mental health violations.
The first lawsuit, filed by the firm of Siegel LeWitter Malkani, alleges that Kaiser’s systemic denial of mental health services was the contributing factor in the suicide of a Kaiser patient. It also states that two of the named plaintiffs were forced to pay thousands of dollars in out of pocket costs in order to get the care that Kaiser should have provided them.
The second lawsuit, filed in Southern California, states that Kaiser undertook the “illegal practice of systematically denying weekly psychotherapy to its members.” The lawsuit highlights NUHW’s 2011 complaint to the DMHC that detailed Kaiser’s substandard mental health services.
The Department of Managed Health Care, one of the state agencies responsible for regulating Kaiser, is currently conducting a follow-up survey of Kaiser Permanente to determine whether or not the HMO is complying with state law. In June of 2013, the DMHC fined Kaiser $4 million for violating multiple provisions of state law, including California’s Timely Access Regulations and the California Mental Health Parity Act. The DMHC’s investigation was triggered by a complaint filed by NUHW in November of 2011 in the form of a 35-page report entitled, “Care Delayed, Care Denied.”