Four thousand psychologists, therapists, psychiatric nurses, and social workers will start a five-day strike on Monday against Kaiser Permanente at more than 100 facilities across California.
Shortage Of Mental Health Professionals In The US
The mental health workers are demanding the largest non-profit HMO in the United States to address their concerns about what they describe as understaffing problems as the nation faces a shortage of mental health professionals.
The workers claimed that the shortage of clinicians limits patients' access to appropriate treatment.
Sal Rosselli, the president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers or NUHW, which organized the strike, said that access to mental health care is a civil rights issue.
The union is protesting the services given to patients insured by Kaiser. It wants the HMO to increase staffing to reduce the length of time patients wait for an appointment, reduce the number of patients who are sent to non-Kaiser therapists, and boost the ratio of returning patients to intake patients.
The union said it tried to work with Kaiser but the HMO refused to make meaningful changes to working conditions, or access to therapy appointments regardless of making a profit of $3.8 billion profit in 2017, and $2.9 billion from January to September this year.
"Kaiser is refusing to hire enough mental health therapists so that patients with depression, bipolar disorder and other conditions don't have to wait one and two months between appointments," the NUHW said in a statement.
Mental Health In The US
A report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield showed that cases of major depression in the United States rose by 33 percent since 2013.
The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released a study last week that showed suicide rate rose by 33 percent since 1999. Since 2008, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the United States.
Figures from the National Alliance on Mental Illness likewise show that there are 43.8 million people who experience mental illness in a year.