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Expert Q&A

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How can I get mental health services?

Asked by Daniel Peterson , Pueblo, Colorado

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How can I get acceptable mental health services? I am 31, living off of Supplemental Security Income and have Medicaid. I cannot get assistance to have all basic essentials met. I am limited to what can be done alone without money or being able to walk or go too many places at once. I just need to know what to do.

Expert Bio Picture

Mental Health Expert Dr. Charles Raison Psychiatrist,
Emory University Medical School

Expert answer

I have been thinking for a number of weeks about your question. I wish I could tell you what to do in a practical way that would meet your needs. Because of my line of work, I know a lot of folks in your situation, and it's really rough. I think I've been avoiding answering your question because it made me feel so bad that so little is available to so many people in our country who need help the most.

Be that as it may, let me make some general suggestions. You included the city where you live in your e-mailed question. You are fortunate compared with many people in that you have fairly extensive psychiatric facilities in your area. Having said that, I don't know enough about your city to suggest exactly what you should do.

So let me make some general suggestions. One can often get better treatment at county-based mental health clinics than with private doctors who accept Medicaid. There are several reasons for this. First, the clinics don't have the same need to turn a profit as doctors in private practice do, so they are often willing to spend more time helping. Second, they often have a range of programs that one can use as needed. I spent a fair amount of time looking through the county mental health clinic for your city, and it looks pretty good to me.

Sometimes a change in perspective can also help a person deal with all the hassles and frustrations of trying to get mental health care with minimal financial resources.

I often tell patients that they should treat getting the best care they can like a job. Think about it. Most folks work 40 hours a week to put bread on the table. If you devoted 40 hours a week to working on how to optimize your mental health treatment, as well as social services, you might find many doors opening to you. Persistence is everything -- persistence and patience.

If you take my advice to heart, try not to get frustrated or angry with people in the health care system. Patient-but-persistent friendliness on your part is the best way to get them to want to help you.

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