[Editor’s note: KHN is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.]
A California law that took effect in July requires health plans to offer timely follow-up appointments for mental health and addiction patients. Whether that’s happening is a point of contention in an open-ended strike by Kaiser Permanente clinicians in Northern California who say staffing shortages saddle them with stifling workloads that make providing adequate care impossible.

KP says it is making every effort to staff up but has been hampered by a labor shortage. The therapists — and the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents them — counter that the managed-care giant has difficulty attracting clinicians because its mental health services have a poor reputation.

The dispute has erupted at a time when demand for mental health care is increasing. The share of adults in the United States with symptoms of depression and anxiety has nearly quadrupled during the covid-19 pandemic.

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