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Survey Reveals Problems With Mental Health Care At Kaiser Permanente

Aired 11/15/11 on KPBS News.

A survey reveals most mental health providers at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California believe patients aren't getting timely care.

— A union-backed survey of providers at Kaiser Permanente shows widespread dissatisfaction with the HMOs' mental health services. The union representing mental health professionals has been negotiating a new contract.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers surveyed more than 300 mental-health providers at Kaiser facilities in California. Many said they're not given enough time to evaluate patients, and they're not able to schedule return appointments in a timely way.

Jim Clifford has been a therapist at Kaiser's outpatient clinic in Otay Mesa for 10 years. He said mental-health care has gotten short shrift.

"We're trained to know what adequate care is and to provide it," he said. "And it's very troubling ethically to be in a position due to poor staffing not to be able to provide that. And it's been a chronic situation at Kaiser."

Clifford said Kaiser has refused to beef up staffing so that mental-health patients can get better care.

In a written statement, Kaiser officials said the quality of their mental health services has been recognized by independent rating agencies, and the state of California. The HMO said the NUHW survey was inaccurate and biased.

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