Steinberg to mediate Kaiser talks with mental health clinicians

Social worker Amalia Marroquin, center, shouts cheers for cars that passed last month during a strike involving mental health clinicians represented by the National Federation of Healthcare Workers at Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center in Sacramento.  The two sides agreed that Sacramento Mayor Daryl Steinberg would mediate the stalled contract talks.

Social worker Amalia Marroquin, center, shouts cheers for cars that passed last month during a strike involving mental health clinicians represented by the National Federation of Healthcare Workers at Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center in Sacramento. The two sides agreed that Sacramento Mayor Daryl Steinberg would mediate the stalled contract talks.

snevis@sacbee.com

Sacramento Mayor Daryl Steinberg will mediate negotiations between Kaiser Permanente and the National Federation of Health Care Workers, which represents nearly 2,000 mental health doctors who have been on strike for about 10 weeks.

During a rally Friday in Auckland, NUHW President Sal Rosselli announced that the union had agreed to work with Steinberg to try to resolve a major issue that has stymied negotiations. Rosselli said he just left a two-hour meeting with Steinberg where he introduced himself, not as mayor of Sacramento nor as a former interim president of the California Senate, but as the person who led state legislative efforts that have invested billions of dollars in mental health care for California communities.

“I hope within days we will have a solution,” Rosselli said. “Our hope is a tentative agreement, and that tentative agreement should include a fundamental change in the relationship that Kaiser CEOs have agreed to work with you, our clinicians, to finally reform the behavioral health system.”

The company and union have been at odds over how much time therapists should take care of patients’ needs outside of therapy sessions. Mental health providers said that in addition to putting their notes into the Kaiser system, they must often connect patients to other resources and use their profession’s tools to assess a patient’s conditions.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Kaiser officials said they are committed to reaching an agreement that meets patients’ needs.

“After a lot of back and forth, we are at a point, to move forward and find a solution, we need an independent third party intermediary,” company officials said in the statement. “We are pleased that NUHW has agreed to join us on this. We have suggested, and NUHW agreed, that we ask Mayor Steinberg to mediate in contract negotiations.”

The mayor’s representatives did not immediately comment. Steinberg met with both sides today.

Rosselli also noted that it was Steinberg who helped negotiate an initial deal in 2015 while NUHW was preparing to go on an open strike.

Therapists, who are represented by the National Federation of Health Care Workers, said Kaiser members routinely wait months to see Their clients are in Sacramento and elsewhere around Northern California after an initial eating session to assess their needs.

Kaiser members also called The Bee To share the length of treatment waits that affected them or their family members, saying they felt trapped in a “circle of terror” because the contracted therapists on company-provided lists either did not see new patients or did not have credentials for their treatment.

This story was originally published October 14, 2022 1:22 pm.

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Kathy Anderson covers healthcare for The Bee. Her parents grew up blue collar people who paid out of their pockets for care. She joined The Bee in 2002, and has held roles including business columnist and article editor. She previously worked for newspapers including the Dallas Morning News, Detroit News and Austin American Statesman.

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