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Home Hawai'i Statewide News Senator Fevella Asks Kaiser Permanente Executives to Address the Understaffing Crisis of Mental Health Care Services

Senator Fevella Asks Kaiser Permanente Executives to Address the Understaffing Crisis of Mental Health Care Services

by Thunda

On September 21, Senator Fevella sent a letter to Kaiser Permanente executives on behalf of the 266,000 Kaiser-insured members in Hawai‘i and psychologists, social workers, nurses and chemical dependency counselors employed by the company who are currently on strike. In the letter, the senator asked the executives to return to the negotiating table to address the understaffing crisis of Kaiser’s mental health care services. 

Senator Fevella stated, “The ongoing strike by Kaiser’s therapy and mental health clinicians has brought to light the severity of Kaiser’s staffing crisis, but it also points to Kaiser’s unwillingness to fairly negotiate a resolution when Kaiser’s response is to propose a wage freeze and cut retirement benefits, including the elimination of pensions for new hires.” 

While Kaiser has been able to negotiate raises and continue to provide benefits for non-mental health unionized employees, they have continually put negotiations with mental health unionized employees on hold. “It is imperative that Kaiser break through the current stalemate for its members and for those potential skilled therapists in the greater island community who could be available for hire if not for Kaiser’s poor working conditions and unsatisfactory compensation scale,” wrote the senator. 

Due to violations of the national behavioral health standards, Kaiser has been placed under a corrective action plan by the National Committee for Quality Assurances. Senator Fevella suggested using “tried-and-true tools” such as hiring bonuses, improved working conditions and increased wages and benefits to correct the violations.  

“It is critically important that both private and public sectors urgently work together to connect individuals experiencing mental illness, substance use disorders and homeless into treatment,” he concluded. 

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