Letters for the Week of August 27, 2014 

Readers sound off on Kaiser, advertising in the Express and the appeal of Oakland

"A Flawed Model for Care," Feature, 8/13

'Shame on You, Kaiser'

I am a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Kaiser Modesto and my son has been denied mental health services. He was hospitalized for threatening to commit suicide, and while he was a patient, he had violent episodes toward staff. Every day was a fight to keep him hospitalized, which was the recommendation of his physician.

I filed a case with the California Department of Managed Health Care but it found in favor of Kaiser, so my son was released and Kaiser wanted him to attend intensive outpatient treatment, even though I explained he had already failed that treatment. I took him to his first appointment, during which he refused to participate, so they kicked him out. That meant he could only be seen once a month because the therapist said there was no room in the schedule. I then scheduled weekly appointments far in advance and Kaiser canceled them all.

My son is still suffering and I worry every day that he will hurt himself or me or my other child, who is six years old. Shame on you, Kaiser.

Amy Glass, Manteca

Does the Kaiser Model Work at All?

Kaiser appears to be systematically denying patients access to essential but expensive-to-provide services. We have to ask: If this is how Kaiser keeps its premiums relatively low, does its model work at all?

Owen Thompson-Lastad, Berkeley, CA

I've Had Exceptional Care at Kaiser

I have had great success with Kaiser Santa Clara and Santa Teresa's mental health care services. I have been dealing with anxiety and depression and I found their programs to be extremely helpful and readily available to me. I have experienced exceptional attention and care at Kaiser. Additionally, one of my children went through the outpatient drug program and the services were very impressive. My child had immediate access to an excellent therapist on a weekly basis. She also had a lot of group therapy choices. Although she was not classified as an addict, Kaiser treated her usage very seriously. I highly recommend this intervention program to other parents. I am saddened to hear that other patients are falling through the cracks.

Kristen Vannest Kuhlmeyer, San Jose

Come On, Express, You Can Do Better

As a Kaiser Permanente member, I was very curious about the story regarding the mental health services offered by the system. I was very disappointed to discover that the first page of the issue was a full-page ad for the rival hospital chain Sutter Health's new Alta Bates Summit hospital. I would like to think that the paper's reporting and business divisions are separate, but it's hard to ignore the possible conflict of interest presented by the paper's layout. When writing stories critical of an organization, it should be very important to avoid even the appearance of conflict for a news organization, and this issue is falling quite short of this standard.

Jesse Richmond, Oakland

The Editor Responds

The news team was not aware that the newspaper would be running an ad for Sutter's Alta Bates. In fact, we typically do not know in advance what ads are going to be in the paper. In addition, our advertising team is not privy to what stories we're running until after they go to press.

"Setting the Record Straight about Oakland," News, 8/13

Thank You, Mr. Gonsalves

Elmano Gonsalves is my new hero. I get so tired of trying to defend Oakland to old, closed minds near and far. Many of them are here in the East Bay, even working with me in Oakland, and they still seem to think it's the Nineties (it has nothing to do with their outdated wardrobes). Seriously, though, I get very frustrated. I often throw my hands up and tell them, 'You're right! It's terrible here. Tell your cohorts and do stay away!' We don't need their kind anyway, right? After all, they're the first ones to run out to the news crew with the proper soundbite of fear.

Justine tenZeldam, Oakland

Gonsalves Is Right

The article was on point. I've owned a small business in Uptown Oakland for seven years and have lived here for more than sixteen years. When I first arrived from Los Angeles, I was nervous about Oakland's reputation and my safety based on media reports. I was pleasantly surprised to see and experience first hand how beautiful Oakland is and how culturally diverse the landscape is. I have never been robbed or burglarized. Less than six months ago, I started a Tumblr blog called Faces of Oakland as an homage to Oaktown and as an attempt to show Oakland's culturally diverse faces to people from the outside looking in. So far, so good. I overstand Elmano Gonsalves' campaign to demand fair reporting about a city that has had its fair share of slanted media reports. I love it here. It is no utopia, but what city is?

Tracey Friley, Oakland

Gonsalves Is Full of Crap

A while back, a friend of mine from Walnut Creek asked me if it was true that Oakland was the "bright side of the bay." My response was that it was only true if you are referring to the muzzle flashes that come from automatic weapons.

I don't know what Mr. Gonsalves' game is, but he is full of crap. I've been a resident of Oakland for about thirty years and I can assure you that no amount of "happy talk" can disperse the abysmal facts. The police department considers it a "good year" if the annual homicide rate falls anywhere below triple digits. For comparison, my friend from Walnut Creek lives in a town that has one murder every ten years or so. That means that, given the same time span, the ratio of murders in Oakland as compared to Walnut Creek is about 1,000 to 1!



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