8 tips for making sure the mental health system works for your teen

We just wrote a post about adolescent mental health. Realizing that your teen is struggling is the first step. Gaining access to mental health care is another.

The mental health system can be very difficult to navigate as you explore treatment options and look for services for your teen. Good programs struggle to find funding and there are often long waiting lists. Getting good care for your teen requires that you know how the system works and that you are assertive and involved. There are many excellent resources that will help you better understand treatment options, service providers, and medications including NAMI.

In addition, here are 8 ways to avoid the pitfalls of our mental health system:

  1. Read your insurance policy carefully. Benefits for mental health and chemical dependency may be in a separate section of your policy.
  2. Read your insurance policy to determine procedures for assessing care. The procedures may be different from the benefits. For example, you may need authorization in advance before outpatient visits are covered.
  3. Find out which providers are covered by your plan and what the cost of out-of-network care is.
  4. Find out the procedures for securing a second opinion and for getting a referral outside the plan.
  5. Get recommendations from people you trust about the best care providers under your plan's benefits and procedures.
  6. Once you have received care, don't hesitate to ask questions about treatment options, medications, and second opinions.
  7. If you feel you are getting inadequate care, contact the patient representative at your health plan and share your concerns. Ask what your options are.
  8. Hopefully you won't have to resort to this, but many states have offices for health care complaints if problem persist. Look in your department of health or attorney general's office if you need to make a complaint.