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Mental health care sucks in the US...

lieutenant_dad's picture

Well, all health care does, but mental health care is a particularly vicious beast.

Backstory for those that don't remember, YSS came to live with us earlier this year partly because YSS threatened and made plans to commit suicide. DH got him a crisis intake the next day and services started the next week.

All went well for about a month. YSS was going to weekly therapy, but the Tier 1 provider was an hour away from us. The appointments were cutting into YSS's schooling when they couldn't schedule in the late afternoon/early evening and YSS was going back to school physically in March so that made it even more challenging. Thankfully, his therapist had an evening slot open so he booked YSS during that time going forward. Wonderful!

...until the therapist's supervisor overrode that slot and gave it to someone else who needed it. This led to three months of random appointments that would sometimes be scheduled two weeks apart and then 3-4 days apart, they would only schedule a few appointments at a time so DH and I were scrambling to make random dates and times work, and it's still an hour away so you're talking taking 3 hours off work and school for therapy weekly. 

DH worked it out with the therapist for YSS to do some televisits, but that wasn't really good protocol for the agency and YSS didn't like it as much because he was home during sessions where he worried people would hear him. Good news out of all of this was YSS got a safety plan, his ideation went from daily/often to once a month/rarely.

This arrangement stopped working when we moved in May, so YSS has been out of therapy since then. We have been getting him set back up in health care, so we've really just been waiting to talk to someone who can refer him in our new area since he's stable. He went to his pediatrician last week and was connected to the clinic's behavior health specialist for therapy until he could transition to a new center closer to home. Wonderful!

...until that center called DH to enroll him and they don't take private insurance anymore, so YSS can't go to therapy through them. My insurance company only lists the place we were originally going to, and I am going to ask the BHT tomorrow for a different referral to an agency that will actually accept insurance. I'm also going to call the old place back if the BHT doesn't have anyone else to see if they have a solution.

I'm just utterly frustrated. I try Googling places and get a list of providers that work for the place that doesn't take insurance. Everyone else is 30+ minutes away and I have no idea what insurance they take. I'm trying to compile a list for DH to call (since I carry YSS on my insurance), and it's a fracking nightmare trying to find it on my own.

Anyone got suggestions? Is there a youth mental health services database that I don't know about? I'm really disappointed that this place nearby doesn't take insurance because they're the largest provider in the area, which probably means they've pushed other people out. It's not even about the money - it's about the time and distance. We'll pay someone who is closer...if I could find someone who was closer.

Just effity eff eff.


TheAccidentalSM's picture

I'm not in the USA so I don't have advice.  But you have my complete sympathy.  Mental Health issues are so difficult for teens especially in my country too.  We went down this road with YSS and it was hard.  Our national health service offered services but there was a long wait time.  My DH paid out of pocket for a private service.

While all this is happening remember to take care of your own mental health.  

Rumplestiltskin's picture

You aren't lying. Both times i got my kids therapy i had to pay a huge amount out of pocket. Over $1000 each for the full course, and both ended early because of cost. I'd be in therapy now if not for the price. Fking horrible. We always say on this site to get therapy or take the kids to therapy and when you try, you go into debt for it. Which adds more stress! 

Gimlet's picture

That's a good point and something I should think about because I am one of those people who likes to recommend that. 

Rumplestiltskin's picture

I do too, because ideally it's the best option, but there are so many things in the way. Cost, plus there's still a stigma in some areas. For adults in certain jobs, seeking treatment for certain disorders could threaten their employment, ensuring they lose their coverage. It's a real mess. 

Gimlet's picture

You are right and I appreciate that reminder.  I've been so focused on it in my own life (and have found ways to make it work, which not everyone can) that I forget sometimes how difficult it can be.

Rumplestiltskin's picture

I hate to just bitch and complain when the original post was asking for solutions lol.

ETA maybe try the school system if he's in school. Some districts do have help available. 

Gimlet's picture

Yeah, mental health parity isn't even close to happening and that's parity with our broken regular healthcare system.

I paid my former therapist out of pocket for years because he wasn't covered under my insurance and I have a high deductable plan anyway, like many of us.

I've used the Psychology Today website with some success, but had to follow up individually on each lead.  I have UHC, so their Behavioral Health has its own website ( that lists covered therapists.  The trick is that you have to do the legwork outside of the insurance info to find the right fit because they will just recommend someone on keywords.

Is there a university near you that might offer mental health services?  DH is finally enrolling YSS in the Intensive Outpatient Program that I recommended a year ago through one of the universities in my area.

Dogmom1321's picture

Check out Psychology today and see who will take your insurance. Also with your provider, they should have an online directory for you to access. We can search by specialty and mile radius. If not, I would call them so you aren't on a wild goose chase. 

simifan's picture

Call the local crisis center. They refer to outpatient all the time. They should be able to tell you who takes the insurance. 

Aniki's picture

Lt Dad, I wish I had answers but can only sympathize. Mental healthcare is grossly insufficient. 


Something that really hacks me off is the set number of visits; like 6 or 12. Some issues are so deep, a person cannot even find a working solution in that amount of time, must less resolution. It's a freaking joke. Sad

BethAnne's picture

I've been trying to get my husband to get my sd to therapy for a over a year now....he's had a few job changes (and thus insurance changes) and the couple of places we did contact had really long wainting lists and he has not been very persistent or urgent in trying to find somewhere. He claims he really wants to get her therapy but has done little to follow up on it. So fustrating. 

Anyway my advice is to go on your insurance company's website and you should be able to find a provider list and filter it by qualification or specialization etc.

When I tried this last time, I had to be quite broad with the category that I selected and then go through each individual provider's profile and check if they fitted for our needs and then after that search online to find more information about them. The info listed on the database was not always accurate. 

It was quite labor intensive but I managed to get a list together for my husband. Of course he then had ANOTHER job change which meant new insurance that list is useless now. So because I don't want SD to be deprived of therapy she desperately needs any longer I will probably go ahead and make another list for him. 

notsurehowtodeal's picture

Is there a local Children's hospital? They might be a good resource.

You might try sending Tog a private message, she would probably have some ideas.

So sorry you are going through this, it sounds so frustrating - especially when it does not have to be this way...

thinkthrice's picture

The ACA web portal?

lieutenant_dad's picture

Thanks for the suggestions folks!

My insurance isn't like most insurance. I work for a health care system, so they pay out for medical expenses annually for employees. We have an outside company that manages it like insurance. Basically my employer is self-insured. Any care I get through them is covered 100%, but only if I use their facilities. Outside them and it becomes a hodge-podge of tiered-covered providers, and a list of those providers is not available online. I'll have to call HR to get a list, or a better understanding of who is covered.

If HR doesn't have a list, I'm back to Google. However, I had forgotten about contacting the children's hospital (I think Tog actually recommended that a while ago) to see who they might recommend around here. Knowing that most folks have just had to cross-reference who they Google actually makes me feel better because I felt like I wasn't thinking of something as I was searching. The extra frustrating part for me is that I work in a field where I refer people to resources, but since I don't work with kids, I don't have that area of knowledge/connections.

Also, thanks for the support in this from everyone. It had been MUCH better recently than in January, but with school getting ready to restart, YSS's anxiety is going to go back up. Even if he hates it, therapy has helped a lot. I'm also searching for some EC activities that he wants to try out, and he's ready for drivers ed so he'll have some good things to look forward to.

Finally, if anyone is wondering why I'm doing this and DH isn't, he is handling other things at the moment and taking over once I get him info. Since I work in health care, I tend to be faster/better at finding these resources. DH is helping OSS with financial aid for college (he lost a scholarship due to our income, so that's fun) and had been the one taking YSS to appointments, school, ET's house, etc. Plus, "pretending to be Mom" is helping distract me from fertility stuff. It makes me happy to do these things, and the boys are good kids that I like doing things for (and DH shows his appreciation, and really stepped that up when YSS moved in).

Anyway, that ended up being longer than I anticipated. If anyone has any further wisdom, please share and thanks again!

LuluOnce's picture

I haven't had time to read through all the responses, but I think my insurance is somewhat like yours in that I can't get access to the "list" of therapists my insurance will cover unless I call my insurance. They don't provide anything online, at all. When I call, they then give me another number to call for the company that "manages" the Mental Health Services department. From there, that company will, over the phone only, give me a short list of 3-5 providers in my area (which is 20 miles so depending on where I'm at in the area, anywhere from 10 minutes to 40 minutes) from my zip code -- not even from my actual address. Then I have to call all those people, see if they are accepting new patients, and if they are, I can only choose one at a time to go visit. It can take FOREVER to find a decent therapist. 

We've been paying out of pocket now for years, because the list is so hard to access, the therapists are never accepting new patients, and a few have been reallllly terrible. I have used Psycology Today like others have recommended to look for therapists and then search the therapists' websites to see if they will do sliding scale payments (based on income). I have eveb directly asked to pay 20% less if I pay in cash or upfront for a "package". 

Not sure any of these things will help you, but I really feel you on this one. I'm so sorry you're going through the wringer with health care.