SACRAMENTO (KCBS)— Kaiser Permanente says it will pay a $4 million fine levied by the state of California for serious violations in how it delivers mental health care after a year-long legal challenge.

Kaiser maintains it has corrected the deficiencies…but its mental health workers have said that’s not true.

The California Department of Managed Health Care fined Kaiser the second largest fine in agency history, finding systemic problems with its mental health care services, including unacceptably long waiting times for appointments.

Kaiser fought the fine for a year, but is now dropping the appeal, agreeing to pay while not admitting guilt. In a lengthy statement, they’ve announced comprehensive improvements in mental health care, saying it has improved access and shortened those waiting times.

Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents 2,500 mental health professionals at Kaiser, says the opposite is true.

“It has yet to take any meaningful steps to correct the underlying problem in its mental health system. There’s unnecessary pain, suffering. We believe some patients have committed suicide as a result of the lengthy waits for treatments,” he said.

In fact, Rosselli said waiting times are getting longer. Three families of Kaiser patients who committed suicide have filed class-action lawsuits.

The state agency said it will follow up, to make sure Kaiser follows through with its promised improvements.

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