Kaiser Therapists, Patients Allege Long Waits for Mental Health Care

Kaiser Permanente’s newly opened medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Kaiser Permanente’s newly opened medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

One month, three months, even five months.

That’s how long some Northern California Kaiser patients wait to see an individual therapist — according to many Kaiser patients and therapists.

KQED’s Jon Brooks has reported extensively on this issue over the last two months. He talked to close to two dozen therapists and patients who said that they were experiencing long wait times. One therapist whose specialty is geriatric care told him that she had written to her superiors saying, “I can’t tell a patient that has six months to live that I’ll see them in five months.”

Kaiser maintains that patients do have access to therapy, that it has 14 percent more therapists now than three years ago, and that therapists need to work with patients to ensure patients get the care they need.

KQED News anchor Mina Kim interviewed Brooks Monday evening about the questions surrounding Kaiser and its mental health services:

Earlier this month, Brooks reported that a Sonoma County Supervisor whose husband had committed suicide while in Kaiser’s care had taken a public stance on the issue of waiting times.

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  • Dr. Y

    I’ve been a Kaiser clinician in psychiatry in recent past. Taking from Peter to pay Paul has been the methodology for years. I used the expression many times myself. There is a constant moving around of staff time to put out fires, but not deal with the impact it causes by switching staff duties. They don’t have enough therapy staff plain and simple and they create fake algorithms to justify their staffing. Kaiser is being extremely deceptive around the issue of individual therapy and access. When will the state and public hold them accountable. Their groups actually are excellent, but just not appropriate for all clinical conditions. If people want ongoing individual therapy on a weekly, every two weeks or even every 3rd, we encourage them to pay privately in the community despite their medical coverage.

  • Edmund Winslow

    While Kaiser delays and denials care to its patients and understaffs its mental health services, the HMO is raking in record profits: $12.5 billion since 2009 and $1.1 billion in the first quarter of 2014 alone — a 44 percent increase over last year, putting Kaiser on pace to to nearly double its 2013 profits of $2.7 billion.