Over the last several weeks it’s not been a secret that multiple LA County Department of Public Health employees have been speaking to RedState and other news outlets, bringing forward information exposing the hypocrisy and corruption of Director Barbara Ferrer, who is using her post to effect her brand of social justice instead of simply concentrating on, well, Public Health.
(EXCLUSIVE: Underground Moms Group Exposes LA Public Health’s Plan to Return to Mandates the County’s Own Doctors Say Aren’t Needed, INSIDER: LA County Health Orders Employees to Prepare to Enforce Anti-Science Mask Mandate, EXCLUSIVE: Ferrer Gave Patronage Job to a Felon Convicted on Charges Related to Corruption and Drug Trafficking, EXCLUSIVE: Whistleblower Claims LA County’s Ferrer Is Using State of Emergency to Abuse and Retaliate Against Employees, Shakedown Businesses)
As those who have paid attention to Ferrer’s career both in Boston and Los Angeles are aware, she does not like to be challenged, and she does everything she can to control the narrative coming out of her office. In fact, as a number of public health professionals wrote in an open letter published at RedState in 2020, one of the first things Ferrer did when she arrived in Los Angeles was to isolate her employees from other county departments and insist that all communication go through department heads.
So, it’s not surprising that she’s pretty disturbed at the continual leaks out of her office, and after backing down from her pledge to reinstate a countywide indoor mask mandate last week, she sent a long email to all department employees letting them know just that. The email also revealed what Ferrer’s public relations strategy will be in terms of dealing with critics.
She sent the email at 5 PM Friday night; I had a copy of it by 6 PM.
I am printing the email in its entirety; bolded items were bolded in the original email. Ferrer begins by praising her employees:
First and foremost, I would like to thank our entire Public Health workforce for your efforts to protect and promote the health of 10 million County residents and respond to circulating viruses of significant concern.
These have, undoubtedly, been extraordinarily challenging and uncertain times, and you have shown up every day to provide essential and life-saving services and support. Many of you are, or have been, part of the community pandemic response efforts; many others have sustained core operations within our home programs to ensure a continuity of services with lean staffing and growing community needs. Our workforce is our most valuable resource, and we extend our deep appreciation for your steadfast commitment to those you serve.
Then she pivots to reveal the public relations strategy for dealing with critics. She decides that their “mission has become polarized,” (which is what happens when one politicizes the job), then claims that polarization is leading to “harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence,” echoing a curious tweet sent just hours earlier from LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis. (Perhaps some messaging coordination occurred?)
While our efforts during the pandemic have brought greater appreciation by many to the importance of public health and the people who work in the field, the environment in which we achieve our Departmental mission has become polarized. Regrettably, while performing assigned and essential tasks, some workforce members have experienced harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence. The safety of our workforce is our top priority.
Undoubtedly, public health inspectors face unhappy business owners as they’re out doing their jobs, and undoubtedly they faced that even before the pandemic. But for Ferrer to engage in handwringing about her employees facing harassment and intimidation is extremely ironic given the punitive and retaliatory manner in which she runs the department. And, she has a strange way of demonstrating that workforce safety is her top priority; we learned last week that she sent hundreds of inspectors out during the first few weeks of lockdowns without any PPE.
Public Health workforce members should never stay in a dangerous situation to do their job. If you are a victim of, a witness to, or know of an act of violence or an imminent threat, please immediately seek personal safety and take one of the following actions, as appropriate:
- Report the matter to your supervisor, including instances of workplace violence and location-specific hazards;
- Notify any onsite security personnel;
- Obtain emergency assistance from local law enforcement by calling 9-1-1; and/or
- Warn potential victim(s).
When Ferrer ordered inspectors out without PPE, they objected to being sent to work in a dangerous situation; their pleas fell on deaf ears.
As a reminder, Public Health has a “Zero Tolerance” policy as to any threats or acts of violence against our workforce and the clients we serve. We encourage everyone to reacquaint themselves with the Workforce Violence Prevention Program and its attachments (Policy No. 902) on the intranet, and the online training on Learning Link.
The Department periodically provides de-escalation trainings for workforce members working in the field. We are actively working to expand those training opportunities and will provide additional information in the coming weeks when the sessions become available. In the meantime, we have the County’s De-Escalation Guidelines on our COVID-19 Resources page.
Additionally, in the era of social media, there have been reports of Public Health workforce members being identified and targeted via their social media accounts. If you are a victim, a witness to, or know of a Public Health colleague being harassed online, please immediately notify [email protected] to report the incident. Our Office of Communications and Public Affairs team continues to collaborate with social media partners to flag and remove, where feasible, threatening, or illegal content. We will also work with County Counsel and local law enforcement, where appropriate, to determine what other options may be available.
The last paragraph there is notable, especially the part that says that DPH’s comms team “continues to collaborate with social media partners to flag and remove, where feasible, threatening or illegal content” and that they are working with County Counsel and law enforcement to determine what other options may be available. In my opinion this is a warning shot from Ferrer to members of the media, since she knows that the email will likely be leaked to the press.
Also, with the frequent dissemination of misinformation regarding public health protective guidance, it is essential that we stay aligned with the Department’s Public Health messaging and guidance when serving in our official public health capacity. As Public Health ambassadors, you are encouraged to stay up to date on our COVID-19 efforts on our website and refer your clients and residents to the available information and resources. As a reminder, per Departmental policy, all media requests for information should be relayed to and vetted by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at [email protected]
Ah, yes, the “frequent dissemination of misinformation.” Ferrer is still living in 2020 and believes that she can just call something misinformation or call people anti-mask or anti-vax and immediately discredit the information or the people. Actual medical professionals disagree with Ferrer’s assessment of the COVID situation in Los Angeles, and despite Ferrer’s stompy-footed protests that “masking works,” scores of well-designed studies show that it does not work to prevent COVID transmission.
Even more important, though, is the last paragraph reminding employees of the “Departmental policy” that “all media requests for information should be relayed to and vetted by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.” There’s the warning for employees to keep quiet and let her propaganda officials handle the media.
Ferrer concludes by sharing resources for employees who are “experiencing such vitriol as public servants for just doing their job,” and at least one of them includes the ability to for employees to, once again, bill the COVID fund for their time. Unfortunately, all of the people who have been standing up for children over the last two years and faced extreme vitriol from people like Ferrer and from community members basing their hatred on Ferrer’s misinformation have no access to taxpayer-funded “wellness resources.”
Finally, I understand and share that it is disheartening that our colleagues are experiencing such vitriol as public servants for just doing their job. We encourage everyone to make use of the wellness resources the County provides, as needed:
- The Department of Human Resources The Employee Assistance Program has announced special live-virtual training sessions open to all County employees, including a special session for executives, managers, and supervisors. The EAP program is staffed with dedicated licensed mental health professionals that provide individualized support and resources for issues that impact employees both on and off the job, as well as offer special support and training for departments as needed. Each session is limited to 50 participants. Please register early at https://bit.ly/37j8sap to reserve your virtual seat. Please see attached flyer for more information.
- All employees (permanent, contract, at-will, volunteers, and interns) can take advantage of the 30-minute Wellness Learning Opportunity. This time is separate from your two 15-minute breaks and should not be combined with the lunch break. Staff should coordinate their schedule with their supervisor to ensure there is coverage. On your timesheet, this time should be coded using 099 Regular Hours with Project Code COVIDWELL. Please contact me [email protected] with any questions.
- The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (DMH) has created the LA County Wellbeing Line, providing free support to frontline staff, first responders, and County employees at (833) 307-0509 daily from 11am to 7pm.
- DMH has partnered with iPrevail to provide customized support to Los Angeles County residents as they continue to re-emerge and recover from stress related to COVID-19, racial injustice, and other challenges. iPrevail brings traditional models of talk therapy to any Internet-connected device or smartphone. After taking a short assessment, LA County residents can tap into online mental health programs such as community support groups, on-demand coaching by trained peer specialists, and self-paced lessons on a variety of topics to improve well-being. Visit iPrevail and sign up for free at https://lacounty.iprevail.com.
At kp.org/selfcarenow you can access written and recorded resources for managing stress, sleeping better, nurturing healthy relationships, and practicing self-compassion. Kaiser members may also access the Calm app for meditation and sleep resources at kp.org/selfcareapps or at the Apple or Google App stores.