Therapists protest ‘dangerous delays in mental health care’

Oakland, California

A hundred striking mental health workers picketed Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, Aug. 26, denouncing “dangerous understaffing” of therapists — with patients routinely having to wait six to eight weeks for an appointment.

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers have been on strike since Aug. 15, representing mental health therapists in northern California. They come under the “for-profit” part of the Kaiser empire.

One of the picketers, Laura Wolterstorff, a mental health therapist, said, “Our patients are hurting. The suicides are not going down, and for children the suicide rate is rising.

“Kaiser’s practice is to weed people out and deny them care. It’s cut and dried. Either the patient meets certain strict criteria, or they don’t get the care they need. But it’s not as if Kaiser is too poor to afford it; Kaiser reportedly has $50 billion in reserves, so they’ve really got no excuse.”

Red-shirted NUHW members carried signs saying, “Patients before Profits” and “Dangerous delays in mental health care.” One hand-lettered sign, in a jab at their Kaiser Permanente employer, said “Miser Permanente — Am I right, people?”

One therapist addressed passing motorists over the microphone with: “Honk if you had to wait two months for a mental health appointment.”

Judy Greenspan, an Oakland Education Association teacher, gave a solidarity message, adding: “In the schools, too, we don’t have enough therapists or psychologists to meet the needs either.”

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