Behavioral health workers, nurses, mental health technicians and support staff at Cascade Behavioral Health voted overwhelmingly on November 10 to ratify collective agreements they say raise the bar for care quality and standards for patient and worker safety.
The resolution follows a safety strike of more than three months by caregivers, who were urged to act after a violent incident at Cascade Behavioral Health hospital left nearly a dozen staff members injured. They left work 15 weeks ago demanding dedicated security personnel to keep patients and workers safe, and on Wednesday, November 10, they announced the deal.
âThis is a huge victory for patients and caregivers at Cascade and behavioral health facilities nationwide,â said Hawah Aminzason, mental health technician. âAcross the country, patient safety and worker safety are under serious threat to increase shareholder profits. Our unity and courage sent a strong message that it is time to fix for profit behavioral healthcare, starting with Acadia Healthcare.
SEIU Healthcare union 1199NW says the deal is poised to be a model for behavioral health workers nationwide. The provisions include:
– Five dedicated security technicians who are trained in de-escalation techniques, support trauma-informed care and can respond to emergencies day or night.
– Industry-leading safe staffing ratios for all units and patient placement guidelines.
– Guidelines that charge nurses will not have patient assignments, and âbabysittingâ assignments will be done in addition to RN and technical mental health staffing.
– 15% increase on the three-year agreement and re-employment bonuses.
– A mediation process to combat hurtful and discriminatory behavior and discuss fairness and racial justice.
– A COVID security agreement, including the tests and advisories staff need to work safely.
The 137-bed facility’s agreements cover 220 workers, including registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, mental health technicians and service workers.
âThis agreement is a great victory for my patients and my community,â said Lidia Abushet, Licensed Practical Nurse. âEveryone was behind our efforts because they agreed that caregivers and patients deserve a safe environment in which to work and recover. We rejected Cascade’s for-profit cost reduction and stood together to ensure workplace safety.
In October, a delegation of strikers took to the streets of Washington, DC, where they clashed with Debbie Osteen, CEO of parent company Acadia Healthcare, and other business leaders at a national behavioral health conference. .
âAcadia’s business model is broken. It relies on a dangerous understaffing that puts patients and caregivers at risk. With this historic victory, we are proving that we can change the way Acadia does business, and that’s exactly what we intend to do, âsaid Jane Hopkins, Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.
Workers began their safety strike not only in response to the August 1 incident with an unstable patient, but also the continued and uncontrolled violence at work, chronic understaffing, racism and lacking COVID-19 protections. . For three months, hundreds of Cascade employees held a lively picket line to demand that their demands be met and were joined by elected officials as well as religious leaders and other supporters from the community.
Most of the caregivers at SEIU Healthcare 1199NW in Cascade are women, many of whom are immigrants and workers of color. They won provisions that will make Cascade not only safer for themselves and their patients, but also ways to ensure safe staff and fight racism within their facility.