Behavioral Health

What is a Mental Illness?

Mental illness affects people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and income levels.  One in four people across the country live with mental illness of some sort. Mental illnesses are often biologically based disorders and may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these.  Diagnoses range from seasonal affective disorder to depression and anxiety disorders to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Recovery from a mental illness is possible and likely with proper, ongoing treatment.

What services are available to help individuals achieve and maintain recovery?

A wide range of community-based services is available, including case management, inpatient and outpatient services, emergency crisis intervention, counseling, family support services and support for children and adolescents in both home and school settings.  Only some of these services are covered by private insurance.  Individuals who are eligible for Medical Assistance have access to a robust set of behavioral health services through their HealthChoices coverage based on a clinical determination of need.

Most mental health services have an emphasis on helping people to remain in their communities.  Institutional options are also available when intensive services are needed, but the goal of state hospitals is to move residents into appropriate community programs whenever possible.  Counties emphasize home and community-based services to help people who have serious mental illness break the cycle of repeated hospital admissions and become contributing members of their communities.  Downsizing and closing of state hospitals is expected to continue as community-based services expand.

What does county government do to help adults and children in need of mental health services?

County MH/ID offices are responsible for planning and delivering home and community based services that provide appropriate mental health treatment based on medical needs.  Counties also oversee the behavioral HealthChoices Medicaid managed care program and are responsible for maintaining a qualified provider network, resolving consumer grievances and appeals, and assuring quality services.  Counties manage a limited amount of base funds allocated by the state for services that are not covered by Medicaid, and county property tax dollars support a small amount of required match to draw down state dollars.

How do I access services?

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, the following resources are available:

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
Suicide Prevention Online Chat
Treatment Referral Routing Service offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 800-663- HELP (4357)

Support after a natural or human-caused disaster: 800-985-5990

Contact your county’s MH/ID office for more information about local services.

Financial eligibility determinations for Medical Assistance coverage through behavioral HealthChoices are made by the Department of Public Welfare’s County Assistance Offices.
Applications for financial eligibility can be done in person or online.