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State Report Finds Deficiencies in Kaiser’s Mental Health Services

Kaiser Permanente has mismanaged its mental health care services, according to a report released Monday by the California Department of Managed Health Care, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The report was released as part of a routine mental and physical health services survey conducted every three years.

Report Findings

The report found that Kaiser has:

  • Made patients wait excessively long periods between appointments; and
  • Offered patients inaccurate information that could have dissuaded them from seeking long-term individual therapy (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/19).

According to the report, Kaiser provided information sheets stating than individual counseling services "will not be a Kaiser-covered benefit and will not be paid for by Kaiser." DMHC said that such statements "are in error because the Plan is required to provide coverage for serious mental illnesses under the same terms and conditions as medical conditions" (Craft, Sacramento Bee, 3/19).

State Action

DMHC referred its findings to the department's enforcement division.

Shelley Rouillard -- chief deputy director of DMHC -- said, "The department feels these findings are really serious. Because of that, we are doing the immediate enforcement referral, which is unusual."

She said that DMHC investigators will conduct a follow-up survey within six months and eventually could levy fines and call for Kaiser to make specific changes.

Kaiser's Response

In a letter sent to members on Monday, Kaiser acknowledged that some patients have had to wait longer than 14 days for non-urgent mental health appointments.

Kaiser said that it has taken several steps to improve mental health services, including:

  • Updating its educational materials;
  • Improving its process for tracking appointments; and
  • Working with the National Union of Healthcare Workers on strategies for shortening wait times between appointments (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/19).
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