Quotes

In 2010, my sister became depressed and requested an appointment from Kaiser. One week later, she hadn't heard back from Kaiser and experienced a complete psychotic break. Her condition resulted in multiple hospitalizations. My family struggled constantly to get care from Kaiser. In April 2012, my sister experienced a deterioration in her condition and called Kaiser for an appointment. Kaiser reported that the first available appointment was six weeks later. Just two weeks later, my sister committed suicide. Kaiser needs to realize that their failure to adequately staff their mental health clinics directly affects the quality of care. In my sister's case, the consequences were fatal. Not only do patients suffer, but our families do too. Kaiser doesn't have to live with the loss.

Marsha Grilli, Milpitas City Councilmember

My husband died in January 2011, at age 46, leaving me alone with our two children then aged 10 and four. All three of us were suffering greatly and I was truly emotionally devastated. When I called Kaiser I was referred to two therapists, one for myself and the other for my daughter, who was in fifth grade. I was able to see the therapist twice as she was too booked to see me any more often. I felt at times suicidal and was unable sleep at all. My doctor said I was truly exhausted and agreed that I really needed help. The therapist was actually wonderful: kind caring, compassionate, and a widow herself. She just had no time. My daughter's therapist was not as good, and my daughter felt she was begin patronized, but she only had three sessions with her, anyway, as this therapist also had no time. One would think that the death of a father and spouse would be an emergency, warranting immediate care, but this was not the case. Kaiser told me that they simply had too may people needing mental health care and not enough providers. Perhaps having more providers would be an obvious solution.

Elizabeth, Monterey

Our granddaughter who lives with us and has Kaiser coverage from us, has been depressed for more than 2 years. About a year and a half ago she was willing to get referred and had 1 appointment, then she was unable to get another appointment and quit trying after 3 months, she called several times. This September, after much pleading, she got another appointment but the provider cancelled it the day of the appointment because she was ill. The person who called about the cancellation wouldn't let me make another appointment and our granddaughter has been unwilling to deal with the rotten system again. This is a bright young woman who did well in high school but became depressed and unable to function during her first year at community college. We, her grandparents and mother do not know what to do. She has withdrawn from all of her former friends and is doing nothing.

Miriam, San Diego

I sought therapy through Kaiser after being sexually assaulted on a date. It was difficult to get an appointment because they did not offer appointments during evening or weekend hours. When I finally had my appointment, the therapist told me that they did not offer one-on-one therapy and I could go to one of the groups. She mentioned group therapy for domestic violence, relationships, or depression.

I said that I was not in an abusive relationship or depressed, and asked whether the "relationships" group was single-sex. She said it was not. That was not a safe space for me! If I was going to go to a group, I needed one where I could feel safe telling my story to other women - not a space where I would feel the need to defend or justify my feelings, explaining to men why another man's actions had been traumatic for me.

I asked if there was a group for women recovering from sexual assault. She said they did not offer that. This is horrifically negligent on their part, considering that 1 in 3 women in America are sexually assaulted, and one in 5 are raped. If 20-30% of their patients suffered from a physical disease, would Kaiser neglect to treat it?

I am currently paying out of pocket for therapy at a "low-cost, sliding scale" community clinic - despite the fact that my employer pays Kaiser over $500 per month for my health insurance.

Kathleen, San Francisco

I referred to Psychiatry in November 2014 after decades of living with severe depression and physical trauma and more recent persistent suicidal thoughts. I had an intake appointment, but my case was then dropped. After serious advocacy on my part, I was re-assigned, but was unable to have a new intake appointment until January. At that point, my case was dropped again, and I did not have my first therapist appointment until February. At that appointment, I was asked "How can I help you?" I was told traditional therapy was not offered and that I should find therapy outside of Kaiser. I was also told I could enroll in classes.

I just received an email notification that my class begins in April. Remember that I referred to Psychiatry with severe depression and suicidal thoughts in *November* after years of waiting. It is just unbelievable. They are just waiting for people to die instead of having to treat them.

Anonymous

My brother was seeking help for severe anxiety and insomnia. He has been having panic attacks surrounding communicating with people, and hiding from telephones and when the doorbell rings. It was getting progressively worse and he was isolating himself from all his friends and family, except for a few. Kaiser doctors prescribed him a hard core bipolar medication and told him to take it for 6 weeks. He tried to speak to someone about the horrible side effects the medication was giving him, but the doctors said they didn't want to hear from him until 6 weeks had passed, so he had time to adjust to it. He got no support. He also is having difficulty getting in for follow up appointments.

The doctors don't seem to care about his mental health. They didn't put him into therapy, and they didn't show any concern about the negative and adverse side effects, which include mental fog, worse insomnia, and intense headaches that make him want to stab himself with an ice pick to relieve the pressure (his own words). As a sister, I am deeply concerned, because the medication he is on can also cause suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Kaiser has behaved in a completely irresponsible way, and I am disgusted with the lack of care they have shown my brother. It shouldn't take more suicides or fines for them to change their practices.

Anonymous
Kaiser's short-staffing affects psychiatrists as well as therapists. Every day, I hear from my patients that they can't get the care they need. Many of my patients go to the county hospital because they'll get better care there. Many Kaiser psychiatrists are quitting their jobs because of the poor quality of care and working conditions. I often work 12 hours straight with hardly enough time to use the bathroom. My clinic's staff are so overworked and stressed out that half of them are receiving treatment for anxiety, depression, and other conditions. Kaiser has great difficulty hiring psychiatrists because many just don't want to work under these conditions.
Kaiser psychiatrist, Southern California

After I developed Bipolar Disorder, I needed individual therapy on a weekly or biweekly basis. The therapist that I eventually hired actually worked at Kaiser, but I would not have been able to see her that frequently, so I and my parents have been paying between $200 and $400 a month out of pocket. My monthly income (including Social Security) is around $1200 a month, so therapy uses up most of my disposable income after food and rent. Recently, my therapist quit working at Kaiser, in part because "It's not therapy" when she does it there.

My Kaiser psychiatrist insists that "individual therapy is not necessary when group therapy is available," but I beg to differ. I have tried group therapy numerous times, and have always quit after a few months because it wasn't worth my time. It takes me 5 hours round trip on the bus to see my individual therapist, and I have been going religiously for years. She is insightful and a trustworthy sounding board. I have gotten much, much more functional since I started seeing her, and feel better than I ever have before. I believe it is at least partly due to her advice. If Kaiser would just hire enough therapists to meet people's needs, more Kaiser members would be able to get the benefits of frequent individual therapy.

Anonymous

I have had both good and bad experiences with KP's mental health services. I have a diagnosis of chronic depression and it flares up occasionally for many different reasons or for no reason. After my father's death in 2010, I was able to get individualized therapy to deal with the grief and complicated issues that came up in the aftermath. The services were very helpful, although waits between appointments were very long.

I began having problems with anxiety several years later that were exacerbated by the unbelievable stress of my job. Eventually I took a stress leave and was referred into KP's "partial hospitalization" program - two weeks of group therapy. I didn't find the group helpful and, aside from a few quick meetings with a psychiatrist for medications, I went back to work upon completion, although I wasn't really ready. I was offered some individual sessions with a social worker, but didn't find them helpful - she was more concerned with solving small problems than with letting me talk through what was going on. The focus was very much on getting me back to work as quickly as possible so I sucked it up and went to back to work. I've remained shocked that they didn't take my issues more seriously, particularly since I had attempted suicide once before - this put me at greater risk for trying again (and maybe succeeding a second time).

My anxiety got worse and worse and my work stress increased as my ability to do my job well decreased. About 3-4 months after the group therapy sessions I attempted suicide again. I was admitted to an inpatient facility for 3 days (per CA law) and that was pretty awful. Then Kaiser did the best thing they could've done for me and referred me to a great outside program where I was (finally) diagnosed with PTSD. I received the appropriate mix of medication and spent time in group and in individual therapy in one of the safest settings I've ever been in - these interventions really helped me get back on the right track and I am in better shape now that I ever have been. This is despite of KP who cut off my participation at two weeks, stuck me back in their worthless program and once again pushed me back to work as soon as possible. I was able to continue with after-therapy with the outside program I was referred to (on my own dime) and eventually took everyone's advice and quit working in the job that was killing me. I still have a relationship with a wonderful psychiatrist at KP, but don't see him very often as I see him primarily for medication checks.

There are a lot of good people who work for KP in the mental health arena who would love to be able to do their jobs, but just aren't allowed. While it's true that medication helps, it's not enough and classes and group therapy just don't work for many people. The fact that it takes months and months to get any kind of appointment, even when you are in crisis, makes their care profoundly irresponsible. If I have problems again, I'll go back to outside resources and pay out of pocket - I'm lucky enough to be able to do that - many people aren't. I'm not sure why my employer and myself are paying KP for services I can't access and I also know that this lack of access is truly dangerous for many people.

Anonymous

A Northern California patient recognized as high risk for domestic abuse experienced large gaps in therapy over a 14-month period. Kaiser attempted no outreach for missed appointments, and the patient's visits did not follow the treatment plan, which included individual therapy, couple's communication class, and couple's therapy. Domestic abuse subsequently occurred resulting in severe injury. The patient was then unable to obtain an appointment with a Kaiser psychiatrist for some time, but finally saw a Kaiser psychiatrist who prescribed individual therapy and close monitoring, with follow-up in three or four weeks. However, the follow-up appointment was scheduled months later and was cancelled by Kaiser with no attempts to re-engage.

Survey by Department of Managed Health Care of Kaiser mental health services, Location unknown

My daughter suffers from bipolar disorder with psychotic features. I would say the the psychiatrists we have had are very good.

What is so frustrating is the mantra that group therapy is as good as one on one counseling for suicidal ideation. I know this is false. She needs weekly therapy appointments with a CBT trained therapist. Her behaviors and condition are NOT treated in a group setting. But the psychologists are like trained parrots. They all think group therapy is an equal or better therapy than stable individual counseling.
This is blatantly wrong. What groups do is save money and placate the organization .

Bipolar disorder is very serious and needs weekly monitoring by a trained individual counselor.
That kaiser imposed the belief that groups are better than individual counciling is insulting to those family members who are picking up the slack working as ad hoc psychotherapists. Shame on kaiser.

Anonymous

An immigrant teenager, whose primary language is not English, reported rapid weight loss since arrival in the United States as well as long-term symptoms of depression, including suicidal ideation. A Northern California Kaiser family therapist recommended family and individual therapies as well as appointments with a dietician working in the eating disorder program. There was no evidence of an attempt to schedule a therapy visit or other treatment and no interpreter services were offered.

Survey by Department of Managed Health Care of Kaiser mental health services, Location unknown

My mother became ill pretty much all of a sudden. She was admitted to the hospital and was told she drank too much water and was delirious. Over the course of a year she started becoming afraid to drive, acting oddly, weeping quietly or expressing gripping fear, oscillating between aggression and extreme apathy. She started saying everything we said back to us in confusion and tearing up her clothes unable to understand sometimes how they worked. Before all this she was usually described as upbeat, gregarious, congenial, healthy and intelligent. She was many peoples go to for Arthurian legends, history, philosophy or a good friend to spend time with over tea. For me she was all that and mom.
In the beginning the family urged her too to see a psychologist and a psychiatrist. All her physical and blood/urine test came back to us suggesting someone who was in notably excellent health. It was obvious to anyone who visited, this was not the whole story, something was very wrong with her brain. We even had to eventually insist on on some sort of brain scan as if this was asking too much. It was finally done "but showed nothing" Both the psychologist and the psychiatrist were totally unhelpful and just wanted to prescribe her anti psychotics and anti depressives. Neither would admit her to counseling as she herself requested and she herself asked not to be on the drugs. She was mostly lucid at this point. Later while her sister was staying with her she convinced her to take the drugs, well meaning, but this was when she was rapidly declining and perhaps had little or no ability to refuse. When I came in as caregiver I noticed them making her worse. I also remembered her personal wish to no be on them. Both convinced me to request she be taken off. I requested therapy instead. I was met with incredible resistance and illogical justifications. One reason given. "Because we said so". Me, "really, how is this sound without a diagnosis? I am there with her all day, everyday. What if these are not helping and if anything making things worse?" Still hostility I was there, I saw how she responded. As she got worse she had trouble speaking, said weird things, seemed afraid of things that were not there and cried nearly all the time. Her inability to communicate, her strange responses and eventually her total refusal to eat food or drink water where becoming a serious concern. While her memory seemed perfect her understanding of simple things seemed on a rapid decline. Once in a while, very rarely she seemed briefly dreamy and happy, but this was often followed by no response at all. She also started to sleep less and less.
The care-giving was needless to say, heartbreaking and demanding and the need to be our own detectives at such a harrowing time: convoluted, distracting and time consuming. No matter how many visits to the doctors, nothing conclusive or definite to say as if the diagnosis of "dementia" should be enough. Yet the definition "dementia" isn't a specific disease. "Instead, dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severe enough to interfere with daily functioning." If "diagnosis" is "the determination of the nature of a case of a disease or the distinguishing of one disease from another" clearly this was not a diagnosis but a description of what was obvious to anyone, which was to say something was wrong with her cognitive function. So their excuse for a diagnosis was a group of symptoms instead of a disease and they were extremely rude and unprofessional to my request and clearly against going any farther. From a medical website "Other conditions that may cause dementia: Reactions to medications, endocrine and metabolic problems, nutritional deficiencies, infections, subdural hematomas, poisoning, brain tumors, anoxia (lack of oxygen), heart and lung problems." So basically they have let us know its not just that we don't know, we don't care. So they are not even interested in the underlying cause and worse the so called diagnosis is pointless and vague.
For the caregiver a diagnosis of "dementia" is the equivalent of a diagnosis of "broken" or "trauma" without letting you know where its broken and to make things totally interesting having the injury be invisible. Clearly you could easily wind up causing more harm than good through ignorance.
Which is what happened.
Kaisers version of "mental care" or a "therapy option" was to "take her to the emergency room and hope she gets admitted to the "psych ward" This is literally what they told me to do. So after some questions from the nurse; 18 hours of going between my mother screaming as if in pain and crying pitifully wanting to leave in the waiting room until she was admitted. Being admitted seemed to make things only worse and there was her in terror and my husband and me going between the one chair and the floor as they could not even provide an extra chair as we held her hand and said loving calming things to her all the whole time until she was taken 8 hours into this. It was a nightmare.
She was admitted to the psych ward and what was not told to me in the whole "try to get her admitted to the psych ward" game was I would be totally unable, even as her Medical Power of Attorney, to have her released until they said so. Even though at the mental hospital within a few days she was much worse, not better, and nearly catatonic, 90% unable to speak, and scared I could not have her leave. I will never forget leaving her there on my one hour visit as she pitifully begged me not to leave and I was forced to leave. Inhuman. She was subjected to more anti psychotics and the like, and at least finally some therapy . When tested up till then and in the emergency room she remembered everything perfectly and scored high on other such test. She really did seem to "snap out of it" a little for strangers rather often which suggested a wide range of mental conditions as did her inability to speak, her near constant depression and weeping, the random deafness, and her inappropriate and confusing behavior. The mental hospital suggested psychotic depression. Like her previous test she seemed to them apathetic or distracted but was not having any clear memory problems. The overwhelming amount of sadness and her inability to string sentences together had gotten worse. But when pressed for a diagnosis more specific and helpful than dementia they said they were stumped and she should see a specialist but she defiantly had severe depression and her symptoms were far more than any psychotic or catatonic depression alone could create and certainly not Alzheimer's with the good memory. Yet no diagnosis still. So they gave her back "dementia" with "severe depression", and they like the Unprofessional's kept interspersing dementia with Alzheimer's regardless of the facts that they are not the same and they sent her to a "recovery center". So she was finally after two weeks in a mental hospital needlessly, released.

This recovery center was a real zoo, but at least later they had an excellent neurologist brought in, something I had requesting for over a year. I also asked for her info to at least be looked at by anyone but the mental health services of Kaiser or at best specialist in San Fransisco and Stanford. All denied. The manager of this recovery center found my mom practically difficult to deal with ( as her caregiver I had some small compassion for him ) her symptoms were near unmanageable and now she never slept and worst from his standpoint, she had bad reactions to the drugs and unlike at the psych ward the recovery center could not justify keeping her catatonic through drugs. They were a recovery center after all. To his credit he was also frustrated as well with the lack of diagnosis which both that and her inability to improve combined would keep her there longer than he would like. She totally stopped eating again too. They put her on a tube fed. Now she is very out of it and seeing a person that is not there, intermixed with quiet mumbling and crying. Her speech slurred like a person on heavy drugs. So finally the really notoriously good neurologist was sent in. And you know what? All of a sudden a diagnosis. A CET scan taken a year before (at my insistence after many refusals)was finally analyzed by the neurologist and revealed a specific kind of auto trophy. These are the same old scans that they said had "nothing out of the ordinary". They called a meeting with my family. They gave us the suspected diagnosis: Frontotemporal Dementia (with semantic dementia) and by the way, she has about a few weeks to a month to live.
A little summery of Frontal Temporal Dementia:
"Common signs and symptoms include significant changes in social and personal behavior, Pseudobulbar symptoms (pathological laughter and crying) and deficits in both expressive and receptive language. May show mood and behavior changes including stubbornness, emotional coldness or distance, apathy and selfishness. Unlike Alzheimer's disease, which affects a different area of the brain, many people with Behavioral Variant FTD don't show any confusion or forgetfulness about where they are or what day it is, at least at first. A decline in self-care and a reduction in the ability to perform activities of daily living is another early feature. As the disease progresses, the person may become ‘obsessional’, repeating patterns of movement and behaviors like hand wringing or echoing back whatever is said."

There were all her symptoms. They fit like a glove. And guess what? To add insult to injury anti psychotics and anti depressants can antagonize or do nothing at all.In other words, were actually making her worse and possibly accelerating her symptoms. The palliative care for Frontal Temporal and Alzheimer's are very different. The pathology is very different. Now at least we can do what little for her comfort and happiness we were denied due to negligence of Kaiser. Except she is becoming catatonic. So for her last two weeks it is mostly too late. I have to decide whether to remove the feeding tube. I do. Thanks to no dignity in death laws she is forced to die slowly of dehydration and starvation in a world of nightmares with us no longer able to reach her. My mother. It could have been your mother. The one size fits all system of Kaiser is a merciless juggernaut that neglects mental health issues and refuses proper care and diagnosis. She suffered needlessly for their incompetence and apathy. We all did.

The summery of my experience is she should have been treated with compassion and basic medical competence from the start. If she had had therapy or a neurologist as asked this could have all been avoided. The needless horrors and suffering of that year on her loved ones should have never happened either. I write this for the first time with some difficulty (so please pardon its imperfections) in hopes that no one has to go through what my mom, my family or I had to go through again.

Anonymous

I've had Kaiser insurance since 1981. I was diagnosed with recurrent major depressive disorder some time ago so I've been dealing with Kaiser over this for several years. Their level of care has been steadily declining over that time. I had been seeing a psychiatrist for about 30 minutes to kind of "check in" every six weeks or so. They have been increasing the time between appointments. The last time I needed to see someone urgently, I was told the next available appointment was in 2 months. After a few days of things getting worse by the day to where I was considering suicide, I just went to their clinic without an appointment to talk to someone. I talked to a psychologist for about 30 minutes and was put in their IOP program 3 days a week. The "check in" first thing in the morning had one doctor to talk to 30 patients about 3 minutes each; followed by smaller groups 10-20 patients to one doctor and breaks until noon. That was followed by a 5 minute meeting once a week with a doctor who prescribed medications. After a couple of months, I was told I was well enough to be on my own but they suggested I go to an "after care" group that met one hour twice a week and had one, sometimes two doctors to however many showed up. I didn't really feel a lot better just kind of numb -- but I'm taking 4 anti-depressants and something to help me sleep as needed. I asked the psychiatrist about all of the expensive medications once and he told me they were cheaper than putting me in the hospital. The last time I saw the psychiatrist was in January. At the end of the 30 minute session he said he wanted to set up the next appointment, but they hadn't opened his schedule for June yet and I'd have to call in late April to set one up. I called today and the first available appointment is at the end of July.

Anonymous

In spring 2013, I moved to California from the east coast after being hired for a new position in my company. I was offered several insurance options by my employer, including kaiser and blue cross blue shield.

In comparing the two options I was concerned with ensuring that I received good mental health coverage. Kaiser claimed it covered mental health care as did blue cross. Since both plans were comparable on paper, I went with kaiser.

Before moving to CA, I had been seeing a therapist for a year, and had finally made progress on issues surrounding sexual abuse in my childhood. I was excited going into my first appointment with a kaiser psychologist to continue that progress, but I was disappointed.

My therapist was very kind, but explained to me after I told my past history (which was very painful) that kaiser only offered weekly group sessions. She recommended generic sessions for anxiety and depression. These sessions were mixed gender, which was very unappealing to someone like me who had developed issues around male figures. There was one session for abuse and rape victims that was girls only, but I was afraid that this might push me to experience more ptsd triggers than I was ready for. She admitted that I was a candidate for one-on-one behavioral therapy, especially since it had already proven useful to me, but she explained that kaiser did not offer that service.

At the same time, my domestic partner who had moved to California with me also signed up for Kaiser since they claimed full mental health coverage. My partner has been diagnosed with OCD since childhood. It is a difficult and often misunderstood mental disease (more than the stereotypical number counting) but he was offered the same treatment I was- weekly group sessions in anxiety and depression, and one-on-one review sessions every three weeks. He asked if it would be possible to pay out-of-pocket to see a therapist more regularly since it was essential to identifying and responding early to signs of problems. But he was told by multiple people that it was not just impossible, there was no method or process to allow it.

Two years later, this experience makes me furious. In years past I had attended group sessions, and saw that they can be useful in breaking isolation, and providing a support network. And group sessions are obviously better than having no treatment. But I also know that in my case those group sessions paled in comparison to the progress I made in individual behavioral therapy. I was very upset that my licensed therapist had no ability to actually create my treatment plan. She recognized that patients are individuals that respond different to treatment methods, and that for me individual behavioral therapy could be more effective, but she had no ability to give the treatment needed.

I am also upset that kaiser continues to claim that it covers mental health without being transparent about what that means. I had to wait 9 months until I could switch insurance and get proper care, months lost when if it had known the limits of their coverage I would have never bought their insurance in the first place.

Anonymous

My 71-year-old sister has suffered chronic pain for more than 10 years due to a back condition. She also experiences depression, and in April of 2014 told a Kaiser psychiatrist that she was suicidal. Kaiser put her in an acute-care psychiatric hospital for a time, but after she was discharged, Kaiser put her in group therapy, which was not effective because she's a very shy and private person. When her condition deteriorated and she was re-hospitalized, I asked Kaiser to provide her with one-on-one therapy. She needed someone to look her in the eye and care about her. Kaiser sent an email saying "we do not feel that individual weekly therapy is the best treatment for her." They said if we wanted weekly individual therapy, we should contact a local public agency for "low cost weekly therapy on a sliding scale." My sister is now in a retirement community and pays $60 a week for one-on-one appointments with a non-Kaiser mental health clinician.  

Corlene Van Sluizer, Petaluma

A Northern California Kaiser therapist completed the intake for a child who was brought in by her parents for aggressive behaviors, sexualized behaviors, and significant behavioral problems at home and at school. The family indicated they were in crisis. However, the child was not seen for therapy until seven weeks later, at which point the family pleaded for treatment as the child's behavior and overall functioning were worsening. They obtained an evaluation eight days later, well beyond the 48-hour mandated standard for urgent appointments. Despite the documented need for treatment due to the child's continued acute symptoms, no further treatment took place.

Survey by Department of Managed Health Care of Kaiser mental health services, Location unknown

I am a licensed marriage family therapist in private practice who sees many Kaiser patients who have to pay out of pocket in order to get mental health services. I hear countless nightmares about how my patients have struggled to get in to see a psychiatrist or therapist and the ridiculous hoops they go through. Like having to see a social worker first and then being sent off to their many classes with no individualized treatment. They seem to think a class is the answer to everything. One of my family members is with Kaiser, and we are going to have to pay out if pocket for him to receive mental health treatment because kaiser does not offer emdr or therapy for PTSD. I am very disgusted with this whole nightmare kaiser has created.

Anonymous

A Southern California Kaiser patient was forced to wait 37 days for an initial mental health appointment, well beyond the 10-day maximum wait time under state law.

Survey by Department of Managed Health Care of Kaiser mental health services, Location unknown

I have bipolar disorder and Kaiser insurance. I have been with Kaiser for most of my life. The health care that is offered is very convenient for physical ailments. However, the Psychiatric Unit is horrendous. It is near impossible to get an appointment with a psychiatrist or a therapist. I have had to wait ridiculously long to see my psychiatrist. The wait is typically three months. They book their schedule three months in advance and they will put you on a waiting list if there are no more appointments planned. Once you finally get an appointment, you meet with your psychiatrist for 30 minutes max.

My psychiatrist knows nothing about me, he doesn't make observations when I am there. I have to play doctor but I am not the one with a PHD in psychiatry. I say what is wrong and he prescribes me meds in excess. It is very important that people with mental disabilities have doctors that make judgment calls. They need to notice if something is out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, he doesn't know what I am usually like so he has nothing to compare with.. I have been to a mental facility three times in the past three years and it is terrible. All of these visits could have been avoided if my doctor would sit down with me and try to help.

The therapy program is deplorable as well. Seeing a therapist is near impossible because their program is so limited. There just isn't enough staff. If you are in a crisis and need to see a therapist alone is out of the question. Instead, they put you in an "Intensive Outpatient Program" for two weeks on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:30am to 2:00pm.

I am currently enrolled in IOP and have decided to stop going. The group is not in the least bit helpful. There are so many people that you don't get to talk about anything personal. You are asked not to talk about your trauma (which is typically why people are in this program in the first place) while in group. They do a check in. Each person talks for less than 5 minutes and on Friday we didn't get to everybody. Three people couldn't talk because we ran out of time. There were about 12 patients in my program.

I decided not to return to IOP after I left early on Friday. I was checking in and mentioned how the program wasn't working for me. The two therapists in the room were very defensive. They made it feel like they were against me. One of them even said, "You don't have to have this insurance, there are other places to get psychiatric care."

I am paying so much money to help myself manage Bipolar I. Because I can't get help in a timely matter, I have to go to outside doctors. On top of the cost of Kaiser, I have to pay $150 every month for my Psychiatrist (out of network), and $100-$200 per week to see an MFT (also out of network). I pay an extra $800 every month for my psych care (on top of Kaiser insurance).

I have had to go to the mental hospital because of Kaiser. My psychiatrist changed my meds and didn't check in with me until three months later. In that time, I had a psychotic break and tried to commit suicide. This is a very common side effect for most psych meds. If I were to have seen my psychiatrist, I wouldn't have OD'd on the deadly combination of Zanax and Alcohol. I wouldn't have had a psychotic break and been a danger to myself and others. I wouldn't have driven 2 hours intoxicated to the point of blacking out and endangered other's lives on the road.

I need Kaiser to have enough staff to help me handle this disorder. Three months or more is not an acceptable wait time for anyone having to live with a mental disability. I almost lost my life to Kaiser even when I advocated for myself. I wouldn't have to leave their group therapy if the facilitators listened. I went looking for help and couldn't get any.

Anonymous

I have had "problems" since puberty. I have been diagnosed with bipolar mental illness since 1984. I have discovered on my own that my illness encompassed multiple degrees of other diagnoses. I believe my illness has progressed over the years. I am now 65 years old. I have had many doctors over these many years. None have been much help. My relationship with Kaiser started about 3 years ago and has been the worst experience of my life with any insurance company. They have actually gone out of their way to deny me insurance. I have had to file complaints and grievances multiple times. I have "fired" multiple doctors in hopes of finding someone to help me with my health. My main "complaint" is my lack of finding a psychiatrist that is interested in helping me. At my last session with my present psychiatrist I told her of my plans to take my life when my dogs had gone and she seemed completely uninterested. My next appointment was about a month later which I had to cancel because of circumstances beyond my control. My next appointment was 2 months away and I still have about 3 weeks to go. I have been terribly depressed and my medication doesn't seem to be working. I have told the nurses and anyone else who would listen to me. No one seems to care at Kaiser.

Anonymous

I'm a licensed psychologist working in a community mental health clinic. Worked in supporting a family with two sons- ages 15 and 8. Even though 15 year old was acutely suicidal, Kaiser's mental health only put him in a twice monthly depression group. Tried to support parents in asking Kaiser for more therapy and Med support. No go. Soon after, 15 year old committed suicide right after a holiday. 3-6 weeks later, the 8 year old sibling started having suicidal ideation. Kaiser course of treatment? Twice monthly depression group. We argued numerous times on the phone with the Kaiser treating therapist and a supervisor. I think they did increase the therapy and added med support for sibling, but not sure because we lost contact with the family about 2 months later. All I can say is we have been very skeptical about the quality of their mental health services ever since.

Anonymous

Two years ago I was in a relationship with a man who had become abusive. He had mental health and substance abuse issues, which I had not been aware of before he moved in with me. After several terrifying episodes, I was emotionally overwhelmed and wracked with anxiety. He was having paranoid delusions and ferocious, violent temper tantrums. I was afraid of what would happen to him if I kicked him out and afraid of what he might do to me if I tried. I needed to talk to someone but was embarrassed to tell my friends or family what was going on. (I am a strong, intelligent woman, how could I have gotten myself into such a mess? And why was I so afraid to kick him out?) Kaiser would only cover a total of six appointments with a "behavioral therapist." The first available appointment wasn't for several weeks. I waited. It was scheduled to be a forty minute appointment. Finally the day of my appointment arrived and the therapist was 15 minutes late because she'd been with another patient. I had just enough time to tell her the most basic details of my situation. It was such a relief, at first, to be able to say out loud what was happening to me. I was broken down and sobbing when she interrupted me to say she was very sorry but our time was up. I was stunned. . . Due to her caseload she said she could only see me once a month and the next available appointment was in five weeks. She told me I could sit alone in her office for a few minutes to get ahold of myself. I did. Still, I had to walk back out into the waiting room — eyes pouring, struggling to breath normally — feeling more desperate and depressed than I had upon arrival. I wrote several complaint letters to Kaiser about this and they never responded — except to recommend that I try their online "depression" program. I was so desperate so I tried it. The "program" was basically just a series of quizzes followed by vague advice about getting more sleep, positive thinking, and eating right. Getting "therapy" from computer made me feel even more isolated and alone. It could not have been less helpful. I went to two additional appointments with the Kaiser therapist (about 4 - 5 weeks between each appointments). The therapist was a kind person, but most of our time together consisted of me catching her up on what had happened, there was not time for analysis or actual support. Months later, after many more terrifying nights, sinking further into depression, and experiencing a several anxiety attacks, it became obvious to my friends and family that I was having some kind of breakdown. They insisted on loaning me money so I afford to see a private therapist.

Anonymous

I worked for a governmental mental health agency for 20 years (now retired) and throughout that time a substantial part of our caseload was Kaiser patients who could not get services at Kaiser, so they came to our agency. They had to pay a sliding scale fee out of pocket to do so. In this way, public tax dollars were subsidizing Kaiser's profit - and I'm sure this is still happening. From what I've seen, Kaiser insurance is almost worthless for mental health services - even people who are lucky enough to get a mental health appointment can only get in every 2 months or so...which is not adequate, when the standard in the industry is weekly appointments.

I have read that "Kaiser is bringing in record sums of money — $2 billion in the first half of 2015, more than $16.5 billion over the past five years — and has stockpiled $22 billion in reserves, an amount that exceeds state-mandated levels by 1,500 percent." I believe that a corporation with this kind of money stockpiled should not be allowed to be a non-profit. Kaiser's non-profit status allows them to avoid paying taxes to support the very services that their underserved clients end up using (i.e. governmental or public agency services from other - real - non-profits).

I also believe that a corporation with this kind of money in the bank should not be allowed to keep raising their premiums. Where is our insurance commissioner? Doesn't he have the ability to regulate this?

Anonymous

I worked for Kaiser as a mental health clinician. The Clinicians at Kaiser were top notch. They were absolutely the best in their field. During my tenure there(3 years) we had an increase of membership of 35%. The headquarters in Oakland kept running recruitment campaigns for new members. Meanwhile, our Psychiatric staff decreassed by 10% through attrition and not hiring to keep up with membership. There was never coordination between the business side and the service delivery side of Kaiser. This is the problem. We scrambled in the Psych dept to make things work. It was never enough. Couseling at Kaiser is still a joke. You get to see one of those brilliant clinicians every 6 weeks. That is not counseling, it is check in for liability. At 6 weeks it is even a poor job of liability control.

Anonymous

A Northern California teenager was referred to Kaiser for year-long symptoms of depression, including suicidal ideation. The patient waited 24 days for an initial appointment, well beyond the 10-day limit mandated by California law.

Survey by Department of Managed Health Care of Kaiser mental health services, Location unknown

In September of 2014, a man in his early 20s attended his first one-on-one appointment with me following his release from an acute-care psychiatric hospital. He had been hospitalized after experiencing a psychotic break during an intense semester at college. He came to me for help and we forged a bond in the first session. The patient doesn't want to take his meds because of side effects and his family doesn’t support his use of medications. He doesn't want to be referred to an outside therapist, he wants to see me. But my next available appointment is five weeks away. This young man, fresh from a hospitalization and grappling with mental illness for the first time in his life, has to wait five weeks for therapy.

Kaiser mental health clinician, Los Angeles

I've suffered from depression most of my life and have made multiple suicide attempts. Getting weekly therapy paid for by my insurance was never a problem until I joined Kaiser in 2012. Getting my first appointment to be assessed by a therapist happened quickly. I told the initial therapist that I had severe depression and had made serious suicidal attempts in the recent past. I signed a release so they could get my medical records which backed this up. I was given an appointment with my new therapist 8 weeks later. By the time I saw her I was severely depressed again and becoming more and more suicidal. Once again I was given an appointment to see her 8 weeks later. I asked if I could come back sooner but she told me her schedule is booked 8 weeks ahead of time and to go to the emergency room if I was feeling suicidal. She was new to Kaiser and found this frustrating as well. Before the 8 weeks were up I tried to kill myself. I was sent to a psychiatric hospital for several weeks. My discharge instructions stated that I needed to attend weekly sessions with my therapist. Kaiser was given a copy of my discharge instructions as well. Still nothing changed it was appointments every 8 weeks. On multiple occasions my family members became so worried about me they took me to the ER were I would be admitted to a psychiatric hospital because of my intense suicidal thoughts. This patterned continued for the next 3 years. In these 3 years I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals and made 4 suicide attempts each more lethal than the last. In late February of this year I knew I was going downhill quickly and needed help. I found out I could file an appeal to request more sessions with my therapist. I explained in great detail my past and stated I was currently very suicidal and was planning on acting on them and pretty much begged for help. I was contacted by Kaiser and was told a psychiatrist would review my request and my medical records and decide if my request should be granted. I received a letter in the mail about a week later stating my request had been denied because they deemed it not medically necessary. One week later I took a full months supply of all my medications. Someone found me unconscious and not breathing. I was in a coma for several days and my family was told I may not survive. When I came out of my coma I was told that if 15 more minutes had gone by I would have died because my vital organs were shutting down and I was in acute respiratory distress and I was lucky to be alive because I should have died from the amount of drugs I had taken. After this attempt both my therapist and psychiatrist tried to get weekly sessions for me but the best Kaiser would offer was once every 4 weeks. After almost loosing me my family has come together to pay for weekly private therapy for me. This is expensive but is really the only option since Kaiser refuses to. I feel bad for all the Kaiser members who can't afford to pay for private therapy. How many Kaiser members have to die before Kaiser changes their policy.

Jennifer, Auburn

My son suffered from depression since he was five. Our appointments at Kaiser were always sporadic, 4-6 weeks apart at best. We were told that the benefit was maxed out at 20 visits a year but even that never happened. As an adolescent the symptoms got much worse and Kaiser still insisted that my son join group therapy (but he was too anxious to be in a group of 10-15 kids and would see him sporadically). We paid for thousands of dollars of therapy outside Kaiser. Then my son's health plummeted. He was 5150'd twice. The third time his attempt at suicide was so severe he was on life support for days. We are very lucky he is alive.

If you do not have mental health, you have no health. It is that simple. Kaiser Permanente along with the rest of the country, need to recognize this fact. It is excruciating to watch someone descend into the abyss of depression and mental illness and feel you have no where to turn. It is imperative that health plans recognize that mental health is critical to one's well being. You only have to look at the thousands of homeless littering our streets. Their lives are broken. Their mental illness, delusions and drug addictions fueled by inadequate treatment and a broken system.

Anonymous

The past year, I was hospitalized twice for suicidal ideation and an attempt. Counseling prior to my hospitalization consisted of minimal face-to-face time and referrals to multiple useless groups.
Emergency room care was re-traumatizing and mental health staff at the hospital where I was sent were uncaring and unhelpful. Follow-up care was poorly planned and completely useless, not catering to trauma at all. In fact, I would say Kaiser worsened my PTSD.
Kaiser's mental health model is NOT WORKING. I have since left Kaiser and am receiving excellent care from an outside therapist.
You will lose your life waiting for adequate treatment from Kaiser!

Ileana, Pleasant Hill

A Southern California Kaiser patient with suicidal ideation had to wait 16 days for an urgent mental health appointment, well beyond the 48-hour state-mandated standard.

Survey by Department of Managed Health Care of Kaiser mental health services, Location unknown

I've dealt with an anxiety disorder for the last few years, but recently, it had become so severe that I needed to take a leave from work. I scheduled an appointment with a Kaiser therapist, imagining that this would be someone I saw regularly going forward. I explained that I used marijuana occasionally to deal with my physical symptoms. I asked for a doctor's note for my employer certifying my mental illness and confirmed with the therapist that my employer would not be made aware of my drug use. After I left her office and looked at the note, I saw two very concerning things: (1) my diagnosis was listed as "cannabis dependence" and (2) there was an entirely different doctor's name on the note! I did not return and instead choose to see a wonderful private therapist and pay out-of-pocket.

Lauren, San Francisco

Kaiser mental health care facilities are really not very good. I know this because Kaiser doctors have told me so. Not on the record, of course; everyone wants to keep his or her head down when there’s a storm brewing. But I’ve had doctors apologize for the limited range of services.... And I have found their disparaging remarks to be true. The first appointment comes quickly, but the appointment after that — not so much.... Kaiser consciously de-emphasizes traditional therapy. It likes classes. Rather than patients talking to therapists, the therapists talk to the patients — in groups, about intimate things. The classes are earnest ... but they’re, you know, classes. The best thing my class on depression did was force me to get out of the house once a week for six weeks. So Kaiser can throw around as much smoke as it can find. It already paid a fine for its scheduling practices. The paucity of its mental health services is pretty well known locally. If it’s going to consciously gut the programs, it should just say so and move on. But it can’t pretend that black is white.

Jon Carroll is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Click here to read his column.

Jon Carroll, Columnist, San Francisco Chronicle

In 2011, my husband sought therapy for the issues we had in our marriage. He was assigned a student therapist. He would return angrier than when he went in. At the student therapist's insistence, he brought me to an appointment in which she discussed her own relationship problems and then told me I needed to be a "better wife" or my husband would look elsewhere.

I later told my husband that I'd happily divorce him if he ever went back to that unethical idiot. We are still married, after private-expensive-therapy for couples. She never finished her licensing.

Anonymous

In November 2014, a primary care physician at Kaiser referred a woman to the Psychiatry Department due to post-partum depression following the birth of her first child. The patient, a first-generation immigrant from Asia, was fearful of mental health care, did not have a good sense of the process, and felt a great sense of shame from her situation. After a diagnostic assessment, I couldn't tell if she was suicidal or not. She wouldn't talk much. But I was worried about her. My first available appointment was one month away, so I had to refer her to an outside therapist who contracts with Kaiser. Later, I learned that the patient's phone number had been disconnected and the only means of contacting her was to mail her a letter. As far as I know, we never saw her again.

Kaiser mental health clinician, Los Angeles

I am a psychotherapist in Northern CA, San Francisco. I work for the county of San Francisco with the countless mental health clients that are in desperate need of mental health services and housing. I have worked very hard to be in this field because I love it. I took out the loans and now work in mental health as an MFT. My job is rewarding and much needed. When I started struggling with vicarious trauma and started having symptoms, because of the high intensity of my work, I turned to my primary care doctor at Kaiser. Previously, when I had private insurance in the 90's, I was able to get great mental health care. My doctor at Kaiser, in Oakland, after giving me a "depression questionnaire" told me that Kaiser is "solution focused" and that I just needed to exercise more. She spoke dismissively about mental health and I left feeling violated. Dismayed, I filed several complaints, changed doctors, and after about three months was referred to "Value Options". For about two additional months, I called the Value Options lists. Of the very few therapists that bothered to call me back, one was totally inadequate and the other two indicated that they were far underpaid by Kaiser ($60 an hour with a market rate at $140 an hour in the Bay) and fit me in as if they were doing a huge favor. I could not get regular appointments, and one therapist in Albany, indicated that her husband was a psychiatrist with Kaiser and that she was taking one or two Kaiser patients out of sympathy and boredom with private practice clients. She indicated that she and her husband felt Kaiser was in big trouble and that the deal with ValueOptions would last a year max before Kaiser would have to cave. After all of the complaints and correspondence, a representative out of Richmond CA called me and aggressively asked me, "if we give you what you want will you stop making complaints." They called me everyday for months to basically threaten me. When I called Oakland's Mental Health Department independently, I was put to voicemail and placed on long holds. I was told by the 800 number representatives to show up in Oakland and demand treatment and also contacted by ex employees of Kaiser asking me to help put the case together. ValueOptions is not adequate and Kaiser needs to stop coping out. This is a civil rights issues and while prolonging the inevitable, they are also losing credibility. I make $38K a year as an MFT and am paying $500 a month out of pocket for therapy because Kaiser had nothing to offer me except cops outs! Enough is enough. Mental health is a priority in this country and Kaiser needs to be held accountable.

Cali, San Francisco

In October of 2014, I lost my only daughter, Jennifer Rivera Odum, in a car accident. She was the love of my life. I was distraught, hysterical. I couldn't sleep. I was so depressed. I couldn't eat.  I called Kaiser for grief counseling, and they said it was booked up for over a month. During the holidays, I got even more depressed. One day, it felt like the walls were caving in on me. I put on my pearls and got ready to end my life. One more time, I called Kaiser and said, "I need help." The scheduling staff told me the first available appointment was more than a month later. I told them I needed an earlier appointment and was willing to drive anywhere to get it. The schedulers checked the wait times at the other clinics, but told me everywhere had wait times of at least a month. Soon, I got even worse. I started having chest pains, shaking, panic attacks, difficulty breathing, and my blood pressure was off the charts. By then, I had lost 25 pounds and felt like I was on the edge of a physical and mental breakdown. In January of 2015, I drove myself to a Kaiser emergency room where doctors checked me for a heart attack, scheduled me for an appointment with the psychiatry department, and then sent me home.

Teresa Odum, Orange County

A patient seen in a Northern California Kaiser emergency room was experiencing significant auditory hallucinations and agitation, which the patient described as feeling like "a nervous breakdown." The patient had taken six Adderall, a psychostimulant, and was experiencing increased heart rate and panic. The ER physician said the patient needed urgent follow-up, but the appointment was not scheduled for four days, beyond the 48-hour mandated timeframe.

Survey by Department of Managed Health Care of Kaiser mental health services, Location unknown

A Northern California patient referred to Kaiser mental health services for an urgent crisis due to major depression and suicidal ideation had to wait five days for an appointment instead of the 48 hours required by state law.

Survey by Department of Managed Health Care of Kaiser mental health services, Location unknown

I am a Kaiser member & have been seeking individual therapy for numerous traumatic issues. Then, I was raped in a different state. I contacted Kaiser Behavioral Health and told them my current situation and that I needed to see a crisis therapist ASAP. My regular therapist wouldn't be available for weeks! I asked if they had a group for people who've been sexually assaulted, raped, molested, etc. To my shock, there was none! I kept calling Kaiser to see a therapist right away. I am severely disappointed in Kaiser's system. To this day, I'm still having major difficulty in my daily functioning. Thank goodness I wasn't suicidal because the way Kaiser runs, I would've been dead already. Shame on you Kaiser!

Jamie, Corona Hills

A Northern California Kaiser psychiatrist diagnosed a sexual assault victim with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression. An antidepressant was prescribed but no follow-up appointment was scheduled. Numerous email exchanges between the patient and the psychiatrist show the patient's difficulty in obtaining necessary services in a timely manner. The patient requested referrals for individual therapy and PTSD group therapy. Kaiser suggested the patient seek individual therapy outside Kaiser at the patient's expense, claiming that individual therapy was not available from Kaiser, and that the patient also seek group therapy outside Kaiser because Kaiser group therapy did not address sexual assault. Eventually the patient was seen by a Kaiser therapist — five months after her initial appointment.

Survey by Department of Managed Health Care of Kaiser mental health services, Location unknown

Two years ago when I moved to San Diego I was experiencing significant depression, an increase of my chronic depression that I was receiving individual counseling and medication for in Seattle. I tried to make an appointment at Kaiser where my partner had coverage. It took them more than three weeks to get an appointment even though I told them I was running out of my meds. Luckily I had a Rx at a Kroger associated pharmacy with refills I could transfer down. When I finally got in to see someone I told them I was struggling and really needed continuation of my one on one counseling which had been helping. I was told they didn't provide one on one counseling and was offered a few groups I could join. I went to a few meetings and found nothing in common with anyone in the group. I went back and told the Psychiatrist and social worker and they said they couldn't offer me anything else. I ended up going to the LGBT Center and after low income screening finally got some counseling from a grad student doing her internship. It wasn't adequate for my needs.

Kaiser pushes meds. When I pointed out to the social worker that counseling with meds was the best evidence based therapy for depression, he just shrugged his shoulders and said again that Kaiser didn't offer counseling, only groups. I asked him if there was a queer group her said there was only a gay men's group that didn't allow women. I said so why isn't there a queer woman's group he said that he would bring it up at the staff meeting. I asked him if he saw the news about Kaiser being fined $4 million for not providing timely and adequate psych care, he said that he saw it but couldn't do anything about it because of lack of staff. Nothing happened. I gave up and my depression increased. I'm an RN, I know what adequate care is supposed to be. I did not receive adequate care.

Anonymous

On May 25, 1995 at age 26 my son died by suicide. He was Kaiser patient. Over several years he tried to get counseling. However there was not adequate mental health services to help him deal with his depression. It is sad to learn that Kaiser still has not stepped up to provide the support that patients need.

Sonja , Carmichael

Kaiser Permanente has a long history of poor mental healthcare services. In 2013, Kaiser Permanente was fined $4 million by the California Department of Managed Health Care for illegally denying patients timely access to mental health services. This is despite the fact that Kaiser Permanente is bringing in record profits, which topped $3.1 billion in 2014.

In February 2015, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, the DMHC found that Kaiser was still denying timely care to its patients, despite having had two years to correct the problems. Another financial penalty may be announced soon. This website highlights just a few of the stories we have collected from Courage Campaign members, community members, patients and their families.