A Petaluma resident recounts disturbing experiences in accessing mental health care

Petaluma native Mary Beth Leland has found that living with PTSD symptoms is about much more than just feeling sad or stressed.

She said it was something that could last for decades and could change lives in previously unimaginable ways. But what made matters worse was the lack of immediate or reliable access to the support system.

Leland is a longtime community volunteer and teacher at Casa Grande High School. It is a famous local. She is an activist, wife, mother, sister and neighbour. She is 48 years old, and she is even a grandmother.

She has little concern about sharing her struggles with mental health. Furthermore, she hopes that it will help people who may be in her situation.

Leland has taken action twice against her local health care provider, Kaiser Permanente, a system she has relied on Adequate access to mental health servicesBut she says she left it behind in the end.

“The forest was so dark, and I was so lonely,” said Leland. “The Tsar walked me into danger and left me on his doorstep.”

Leland first sought treatment for PTSD in fall 2017 from Kaiser. At the time, Kaiser told her she was eligible to receive cognitive processing therapy, a treatment that has been shown to help patients learn how to change unhelpful beliefs about past trauma. Kaiser informed her that she would begin treatment once she had committed to attending weekly for a 12-week program.

“I was excited because with Kaiser, I found out that you go weekly — any kind of mental health treatment with them is rare,” Leland said.

But the process was far from what she had imagined.

Kaiser said her approach and commitment to mental health care is based on “meeting the broad range of individual needs of individuals and patients and going beyond individual therapy.”

“At any time in treatment, members may receive a broad range of mental health care and services that include inpatient care, individual and group therapy, telemedicine, access to digital self-care tools, and the collaboration of our expert clinical staff across care specialties,” he said. Kaiser spokesperson, Adrian McCall, told Argus-Courier.

However, Kaiser said it doesn’t want any of its members to have experiences with its services like Leland’s.

Problems begin

After being rescheduled several times by her assigned therapist, Leland was told that she would have to complete the six-session process of assimilation to map out the details of her trauma to the therapist before the actual program began. But, she was told, the intake sessions would only happen once a month. You won’t start actual treatment until six months later, although symptoms escalate quickly.

“I struggled to open the wounds, knowing I wouldn’t be able to treat them again for a few weeks,” Leland said. “Even when we had more than one appointment a month, I never knew how many times I would see (my therapist) in the next month.

“I’m late – how can I start talking about trauma without any reliable schedule, knowing that I may not see the person I’ve been talking to about it for four weeks?”

Then, in January 2018, the cognitive therapy program was postponed, Leland said, because the therapist said they were too busy to meet on a regular basis. Three reception sessions were scheduled in a row that month as Leland kept waiting for the official program to begin.

Leland said two sessions in therapy again told Leland she would be too busy to meet more than once a month until the eating process was complete in August.

“I’ve argued that this model is unreasonable, irresponsible, and careless, especially given that everyone knows that when you start making a list of shocks, the symptoms are likely to escalate, and it’s leaving me without any attention between monthly appointments,” Leland said. “She pulled me into opening wounds, and then abandoned me as soon as I started talking about her.”

This recent interaction with her therapist prompted Leland to relapse into PTSD. She said she started having agonizing nightmares, which prompted her to take a new medication that made her constantly feel nauseous.

“I met (the therapist) again, desperately trying to sort it out and come up with a plan,” she said. “Instead, she stuck to her previous assurances. The relationship – and my belief in healing – is over.”

Leland said she came out of the office barely able to breathe and waited for the scheduled phone call with her doctor that evening, “in a desperate attempt to ask him how to navigate that way.”

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