Kaiser mental health workers in Bay Area and Northern California plan to go on strike Monday morning

More than 2,000 Kaiser Permanente mental health workers across the Bay Area and California’s Central Valley plan to go on strike Monday, demanding the health care provider boost staffing and curtail wait times for patients seeking appointments.

Therapists and clinicians plan to picket in San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento and Fresno on Monday and continue in other Bay Area cities later in the week until a deal is reached, according to a statement by the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

The planned strike comes after a bargaining session ended Saturday without a deal between the health care provider and its Northern California-based psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists and chemical dependency counselors, the union said.

“We’ve been telling Kaiser executives since Day One that this isn’t about money,” said Jennifer Browning, a licensed clinical social worker for Kaiser in Roseville, in a statement released by the union. “It’s about our professional integrity and our ability to provide care that will help patients get better.”

The strike comes amid discord between Kaiser and its therapists over wait times for patients seeking therapy.

While the union said that it agreed to a wage offer from Kaiser this weekend, it remained at odds over how to increase staffing and improve care for patients.

The workers’ union alleges that patients must wait months to start therapy sessions, and that many patients also face wait times of one to two months between therapy appointments. The union also claims that the provider isn’t checking in enough on patients at risk of suicide, and that it’s failing to admit them into inventive outpatient treatment programs as needed.

Kaiser Permanente did not immediately respond to a request by this news organization for comment.

Check back for more as this story develops.

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