Like all medical costs, those for mental health services have risen dramatically. You may have to spend time and effort to explore how you will pay for your care.

Fees vary considerably among the professions. That doesn’t mean that the most costly treatment will necessarily be the best for you. Community mental health agencies, some private mental health professionals and some family service agencies charge fees generally based on ability to pay.

Insurance. If you have health insurance, read your policy carefully and contact your carrier to find out exactly what services are covered and for how long. For example, many insurance plans and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) may provide mental health benefits but limit your choice of provider and services. HMOs usually will require a referral from your primary care doctor. Take advantage of any employee counseling service that may be available to you. Mental health services typically require payment of deductibles.

County Services. Contact your County Mental Health Department to find out what services it offers, or to which services you can be referred. Cost of public services will depend on your ability to pay. The telephone number is listed in the “County Government” section of the telephone directory.

Medi-Cal is a health insurance program for Californians who have little or no income. Medi-Cal patients are eligible for 100% coverage for in-patient or out-patient care at county-operated facilities or from private facilities and mental health professionals who have contracts with the county.

Medicare is a national health insurance program for people over 65 and for younger workers who have become totally disabled. Limited mental health care is covered under Medicare. Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 for complete information about your eligibility.

Veterans are eligible for psychiatric care if they have 50% or more psychiatric-related disability and if that disability was incurred during military service.

School-Based Services. Public schools work with local mental health agencies to identify problems and provide needed services.

Other Supportive Services

Other programs may be available to provide assistance to eligible clients.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available to some elderly and totally disabled people who have little or no income or savings. Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to find out how to apply and what documents and papers you need. SSI recipients also receive Medi-Cal.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program for workers who have been disabled. They are eligible for Medicare after two years of benefits. Call Social Security (l-800-772-1213) for application information.

Note that eligibility for these Social Security benefits requires a disability which is expected to last 12 months or longer.

State Disability Insurance (SDI) may be available to people with recent work histories if they are unable to work for seven days or longer. These benefits may be paid to people with verified medical disability for up to 2 months. Look in your phone directory under State Government Offices, Employment Development Department, Disability Insurance for a local phone number and address.

In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) pays for home helpers for seniors and people with disabilities. Call your County Social Services Financial Assistance (listed in the County Government section of the telephone directory).