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Explore Your Options For Affordable Psychiatric Care

My first instinct when realizing I needed psychiatric help because I was having a breakdown, was to call my company’s EAP (Employee’s Assistance Program). I was lost and they advertised at work that this program could help with many different things, one of them being depression.

I thought I was suffering from depression, so I called the program. I was not only provided with four free therapy sessions, they made the calls and made an appointment for me.

A lot of companies have these types of programs available. However, your company may not have this service depending on size of the company or the area of the world you live in.

The therapist I saw cannot prescribe medication, so he sent me to my primary care doctor. I have found that most of them will provide an anti-depressant. However, if you suspect bipolar symptoms, it becomes trickier. I was referred to a psychiatrist for a full workup/evaluation and for stronger medicine than anti-depressants, or in addition to an anti-depressant. At the time, I had insurance and was able to access a psychiatrist at an affordable rate.

Now when I didn’t have insurance, I learned that here in the U.S. there are programs out there that work on a sliding fee scale and have psychiatrists and therapists available. If your income is low enough, you just might qualify for low-to-no fee care at these centers. Call around to see if they have such a center or something similar in your area. Go online or check with your primary care doctor to see if they can help you find a center such as this near you.

If you end up in the emergency room and they want to put you in inpatient, don’t be afraid. My hospital also had what they call “charity care” for those that have little to no insurance. I have used them for both my visits. They paid 100 percent the first time for my whole stay and a partial payment for my second stay that my insurance only paid part of. I am on disability and just can’t afford the hospital stays, but I needed them. There is help out there and I realize things might be different where you live, which is a good reason to find out what is available to you before you need it.

Another option I found for medication management is a nurse practitioner. They usually charge considerably less for their services than a psychiatrist does and they have the same type of training. I was lucky to find my nurse practitioner through my therapist’s office. She personally doesn’t accept insurance, but her charges are less than the psychiatrist’s. I am glad to have found her and, luckily, I can afford to pay her fees for the short period of time usually used for medication management. She does therapy, too, but that is too much for me financially, so I use my insurance for a therapist.

Now when it comes to therapy, you might have other options that are free to everyone depending on where you live. You can use peer-to-peer support groups, there is no professional moderator. The moderators suffer from the same mood disorders and you get a group of people who know exactly how you feel since they feel that way, too.

They are usually held in local churches around here and can be found online fairly easily. There are no fees, although they might ask for donations to help pay for the room they use. There are usually several meetings a week at different times of the day and night so people can usually find one that fits their schedule. They do not require you to speak if you don’t want to. You are invited to listen and take what you can from the other people as they speak and join in if you wish to. Sometimes I just listened, as I didn’t feel like talking.

There are also lots of groups online that you can join for the same peer-to-peer help you would get in person. I used the online groups for many years and still occasionally will pop into one to see what is going on. It is possible to form friendships from all the different countries and maybe even find someone to talk to personally outside the group.

Don’t let finances keep you from the help you need and deserve.

To read more from Teresa, see the rest of her posts for IBPF here or visit her personal blog here

Comments

99% of the time, I don't qualify for anything on sliding scale or RX savings programs. So what I decided to do was do some volunteer work outside of my blogging for "Florida Insurance Advocates" and hope that by giving, the byproduct will be knowledge on how I can better navigate system. Yes, it's dark out here between the skyscrapers of Gotham, and I'm pretty sure Batman isn't gonna save me. Florida is way too hot to wear a cape. But I have to try.

I make next to nothing and don't qualify for much, but I would hate to lose that little bit. I did have the RX savings when I didn't have insurance and that helped a lot.

Fifteen years ago, California passed a tax on people who earned one-million or more to fund community-based mental health care. It saved my life since I had no insurance and often unemployed. http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/28/3/809.full

Tom, glad to hear that at least one state helps with mental health care. We do have something here in NJ as my stays were covered by charity care and I think that is a state benefit.

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