Severely Depressed But No Budget To Treat It
Recently, I received a phone call from some good friends asking for advice. Someone they knew had admitted to feeling depressed and having suicidal thoughts, and they wanted to help him. He “has good insurance” they said, thinking this would make the process of finding treatment easier, and they wanted to know the best way to go about seeking services for him.
They consulted with me, and several other friends in the mental health field. They were surprised to find that insurance does not guarantee treatment. In fact, sometimes the exact opposite is true. Many private practitioners and even clinics have stopped accepting insurance because it is just too hard to get paid.
Bottom line: if you really need treatment, and you need it now, the best way to get it is to present yourself for voluntary admission to an in-patient unit. This means going to an emergency room in a hospital where they have mental health treatment, and explaining to the doctor there that you are not safe to go home.
With my friends’ permission, I am printing the email they sent me about navigating the world of mental health in the hopes that others can benefit from their experience:
We are most grateful to you, our friends with connections to the mental health professions, for your generous help in guiding us through the complex maze of gaining access to treatment for someone in acute need. Thanks to you, we learned a great deal in a short time about the sorry state of our health care system. With the information you shared, we managed to advocate for our friend and connect him with the help he needed. You told us psychiatrists do not accept any insurance, nor do most private therapists; getting a full psych workup at a public clinic involves a wait of 4-8 weeks, and the quickest way to access help is through the Emergency Room.
You were right on all counts! Without going into details, here’s an update: On Thursday, with full consent and cooperation, we went to *******, picked up our friend and took him to the ER at ******* Medical Center (just 8 blocks from his workplace.) We were all impressed by the efficiency, friendliness, and cleanliness of the facility. We interacted with at least 10 people, all totally professional in their given capacity. Within one hour our friend was thoroughly interviewed by a crisis intervention counselor, and this was after completing gathering of basic info, X-ray, EKG, vital signs, blood and urine samples. The team determined he should be admitted for complete evaluation. THEN we waited, and waited, and waited about 5 hours until a bed became available. At our friend’s request, we accompanied him to the psych ward, through the double locked doors, itemization of belongings, removal of belt and shoe laces. He admitted to being afraid, but welcomed the prospect of help because he knew he couldn’t continue without it. We left feeling he was in good hands. Friday afternoon we spoke with staff who told us he would be released in a few hours, with new meds and a promise for follow-ups. Best of all, he now will start with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at the clinic where it would have taken 4-8 weeks to get an appointment for evaluation pre ER visit. He is feeling far more positive (even the tone of voice over the phone is different) and we are very hopeful that his situation will continue to improve. All of you played an important role in educating us so that we could help him.