SBCO

By Suzanne Hurt, The Press-Enterprise
Posted: 11/19/16 – 6:06 PM PST |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Survivors of the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino say they’re being cut off from anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication and counseling shortly before the one-year anniversary — making an already traumatic time even more distressing.

On Friday, several survivors — who all work for San Bernardino County’s Environmental Health Services division — said they’re being denied the medication and counseling they desperately need approaching the first anniversary of the mass shooting by co-worker Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik.

County Risk Management Director Ken Hernandez insisted survivors are getting all the medical care they need.

Fourteen people were killed and 22 were shot on Dec. 2, 2015, during a holiday party/training event at the Inland Regional Center. Most of the 57 survivors are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Santa Ana workers’ compensation attorney Geraldine Ly, who represents eight survivors, said she’s angry that four have been cut off cold turkey from anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication or both. Counseling has been denied or “stalled” for three.

“I’m just appalled at the lack of sympathy that the county has for their employees who’ve been injured,” she said.

Survivors say the denials are part of a year-long struggle to get help from self-insured San Bernardino County, which administers its own workers’ compensation program, and a California workers’ comp system not designed for terrorist attacks.

Hernandez said the county sends doctor’s requests for prescriptions and other proposed treatment through utilization review, with other physicians weighing in on whether that’s medically necessary.

“We’re not denying any medication or any treatment that’s been approved,” he said. “If it’s non-certified through utilization review, that’s not the county denying any medication.”

The county may say approvals are out of their hands, but they’re not, Ly said. County risk management can authorize prescriptions, counseling and other needs without sending claims to utilization review, which uses “rigid” standards to find any reason to deny, she said.

Three survivors told county officials about the problems in a tense meeting Thursday. About 20 to 25 survivors attended the meeting, while at least 16 remain on leave.
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