Last year, we received many workers’ compensation complaints about injured workers unable to get surgeries or prescriptions approved through the County’s third-party administrator, York Risk Services. As a result, PPOA began meeting with York management and the County CEO’s office to address these issues and find solutions. Our regular meetings with York management have resulted in a better complaint process to address problems. We have had great success with this new process and the open communications between PPOA and York. But is this a “new” York, or is this the same York that many employees have been complaining about for years? Why have we had success recently? Could it be because their contract expired in 2018 and they are now bidding for the new contract?
I cannot answer these questions with any certainty, but I can tell you that our meetings with York and the CEO’s representatives have been hugely successful, and I am grateful to York and the CEO’s office for the improvement in services.
One of the most common complaints we heard from injured employees was the inability to reach a York caseworker. The employee would leave message after message only to later find out that their caseworker no longer works at York! Meanwhile, the employee’s injuries are not getting proper care and their prescriptions are not getting approved. This was simply unacceptable. Because of this, York put into place what they call the “Escalation Process.” This process allows injured employees the ability to take unresolved issues or the lack of response from their caseworker to a higher level. Here is a link to a PPOA article describing the process and all the contact information: https://bit.ly/2RxrQr5. For injured employees still having problems, they can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have had great success addressing multiple issues with York and the CEO’s office.
Another common complaint was the sudden denial of prescription authorization for pain medication. With the recent focus on opioid abuse, there is an increased awareness on the extended use of pain medications as a form of treatment. Fair enough. But if the County wants to reduce the use of pain medication, it must first approve surgeries or alternatives to surgery to relieve the pain. In other words, the solution is not simply to deny pain medication to those in pain; it should be to provide employees with alternative ways to eliminate sources of pain. If eliminating the pain is not an option (which is often the case), then treating the pain may be the only solution. For many, living with pain is not possible. So the County has a decision to make. It either must approve the chronic use of opioids (which will certainly shorten the lives of the employees) or force employees to make the decision to live in extreme pain or die. In instances of chronic pain where discomfort cannot easily be reduced, I see only one option: provide the employee with pain medication. I am hopeful the County will look into these types of situations and carefully review whether pain can be reduced. In circumstances where it cannot be reduced, I hope they permit the prescription of pain medications so that employees do not have to suffer.
I am grateful to the injured employees for their many comments and inquiries about York and their medical treatment issues. Many of the comments were positive, and those comments have been forwarded to York management so that they can give kudos to their employees when appropriate. I hope we are seeing a “new” or maybe “improved” York (but that doesn’t fit my Frank Sinatra theme!). I believe York management and the CEO do care about injured workers; they just needed to open communications with advocates like PPOA who will voice concerns on behalf of injured workers.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD (SHERIFF)
In a historic victory, Alex Villanueva successfully defeated incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell for Los Angeles County Sheriff. This upset was historic for many reasons. But it doesn’t matter the reasons why, what went wrong, who’s to blame or how things could have been done differently. The bottom line is that Alex Villanueva is our new sheriff, and he deserves all the support necessary to succeed. His success is to the benefit of all of us, and we will provide him the same guidance and support that we have given to all sheriffs who came before him. Likewise, if he does something wrong or acts unfairly, we will not hesitate to criticize him.
There are several things that Sheriff Villanueva needs to address immediately:
- Recruitment/hiring. This has been a problem for a long time, and the Department has failed to develop proper strategies for solving this issue. This is a critical need that impacts working conditions and morale for all employees.
- Corrupt promotion process (primarily for sergeants and lieutenants). The “banding” system of promotion has allowed Department executives to choose whom they want to promote. The Department should return to a numbered list and make the process competitive, basing it on skill and knowledge instead of who you know or where you worked.
- The Dual Track Custody Program. This program was instituted to address the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence’s (CCJV) recommendations for jail stability. The Department needs to review its effectiveness and look for solutions to the failures of this system.
- Excessive discipline, Relieved of Duty (ROD) usage and overall treatment of employees. The Department needs to change the excessive use of discipline, demotion and termination when dealing with employees who make minor mistakes. This particular issue has gotten very out of hand over the past several years. Far too much disciplinary power has been given to civilian employees who do not understand the difficulties of the job and the split-second decisions that deputies have to make.
If Sheriff Villanueva makes positive changes in these four areas, he will be viewed as a successful sheriff. But there are many more challenges that he and his management team will face down the road. I hope they are up to the task and are guided by a sense of logic, fairness and compassion.
CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS UPDATE
I am deeply shocked at the ineptitude of the Sheriff’s Department to pay its employees the negotiated pay raises that it agreed to. In early July 2018, PPOA agreed to a contract for its sergeants and lieutenants that included additional raises for patrol bonuses and a bonus for supervision of Bonus II deputies. As of January 15, 2019, the Department has not paid one cent of this money to employees! Absolutely disgraceful! There is no excuse for this delay, but it’s likely being caused by one of two things: (1) the County is trying to hold onto our money for as long as possible to benefit from the interest it makes from the money, or (2) the Department, by sheer incompetence, is unable to figure out who qualifies for these bonuses or how to code the pay raises. We have learned the Department has created multiple forms for employees that require multiple levels of review and approval before it approves the pay. The irony is the Department already knows who qualifies! During contract negotiations, the Department told us exactly how many employees would get these bonuses. In order to do that, they had to figure out who qualified for them. So they already know this information, yet have delayed the raises for going on seven months! PPOA will be working with the CEO to get this problem rectified and ensure that all retroactive pay is paid.
In addition, we also have all the civilian employee groups at PPOA who also agreed to contracts toward the end of 2018. How long are they going to have to wait to be paid? Really?
CHARITY STARTS AT HOME
Sadly, the month of December was difficult for many of our members. At a time when most of us celebrate the holidays with our families, many had to deal with tragedies and the loss of loved ones. My heart aches for each and every one of you who suffered losses during this time of the year. Fortunately, our Star & Shield Foundation was able to provide some financial support to those in need. The Star & Shield Foundation is funded by our members and PPOA supporters, and its purpose is to support our members during crises and the families of officers killed in the line of duty. Sadly, in the first two weeks of 2019, one peace officer was killed in California and seven others were killed across the country! I am asking all PPOA members to do a payroll deduction of any amount to help support the Star & Shield Foundation — whether it’s $1, $5, $10 or $20, your contribution helps us help others. Please contact the PPOA office and make a monthly payroll deduction to the Star & Shield Foundation. Charity starts at home.
I hope all of you have a healthy and prosperous 2019 and beyond!
Feedback From PPOA Members Regarding York
Brian and Mr. Rossi,
The COLA has stepped up big time and, again, made me very proud to be a COLA Family Retiree.
The involvement and action steps both of you made have made a huge difference in the past week.
- I have an amazing nurse assigned to help me navigate the system so that my health improves. Because of your help, I have access to services I am entitled to; I can get clarification of the services and benefits that I am not able to receive; there is coordination between the parties; and perhaps most important of all, Mrs. Dannie Hayden has streamlined the access to the prescriptions and procedures I am in need of so that I do not have to worry about going into withdrawal symptoms.
- I have optimism and peace of mind. With your actions and the help you’ve provided, I look forward to feeling better, seeing my family, especially my grandchildren, taking full pleasure in my retirement and perhaps rewarding my wife with a more fulfilling life because of the help she has given me during the many years since my injuries.
Your caring and attention has really made a difference. That is something I will never forget, and I am truly humbled.
— Benjamin H. “Jake” Katz
Good news for me and it’s all thanks to you. York/Corvel reversed themselves and agreed to pick up my prescriptions (pain). This wouldn’t have happened without your help. So thanks again to you and PPOA.
— Jim Birmingham
I was notified at 5:50 p.m. on Monday that the prescription was ready. They were closed yesterday, so I picked it up this morning. Thank you for following up on this matter. Hopefully it has been solved and I won’t have this problem again next year. Happy new year.
— (Retired PPOA member name withheld)
Thanks for your help; York has finally picked up my claim. My attorney called and said the CEO intervention did the trick, so thanks very much for the assist. Now it’s just a mad dash to get LASD to reinstate my time before the end of the year. Thanks again.
— (Retired PPOA member name withheld)