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Hawaii lawmakers urge Kaiser to resolve strike, improve mental health care

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - 10/5/2022

Oct. 6—More than a dozen state lawmakers are urging Kaiser Permanente to come to an agreement with its mental health clinicians who have been striking for more than a month. The workers, represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, say that severe understaffing has put their patients' health at risk and Kaiser needs to boost salaries and benefits to attract more employees.

In a letter sent today to Greg Adams, CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, the legislators applaud the striking workers for "standing up for their patients " and call on Kaiser to "match the state's commitment to investing in timely, accessible mental health care."

"Kaiser enrollees deserve to receive medically-necessary mental health services, " the legislators write. "Timely care is required by state and federal law. It is also essential for protecting the wellbeing of individual patients, our communities, and our state."

The approximately 60 striking employees include psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and chemical dependency counselors.

The letter is signed by Reps. Amy Perruso, Jeanne Kapela, Dee Morikawa, Linda Clark, Angus McKelvey, Nicole Lowen, Dale Kobayashi, Sonny Ganaden and Sam Kong. On the Senate side, signatories include Sens. Laura Acasio, Lorraine Inouye, Rosalyn Baker, Bennette Misalucha, Kurt Fevella and Mike Gabbard.

Kaiser said in a statement that it has been been working to increase its number of mental health clinicians and intends to double its behavioral health staff by the end of 2025.

"Kaiser Permanente is committed to remaining an employer of choice for our mental health professionals, " Kaiser said in a statement. "We do this in part by offering market-competitive wages and benefits to attract and retain top-quality employees."


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