What to Expect When Calling the Access Center at Community Mental Health:
Each county Community Mental Health (CMH) has an Access line where you can call to seek mental health services for your child. Your CMH’s Access number can be found in the phone book, online or by clicking here and selecting your county. In most communities you may call the Access Center “collect,” or, if you prefer, they can call you back at any number you give them. Their offices are also equipped with telephone interpreter services if needed. Some communities also have a Walk-in Access Center option and some may even have a screening site where they can do an immediate assessment.
Some things that may be helpful to have on hand before your call or visit to Access include: medical insurance card or numbers, including Medicaid; Social Security numbers; the names of your child’s current medicines and doctors; Guardianship, custody or other court papers, previous mental health assessment information, and Special education or other school records (if applicable).
When you contact Access, the Access Center staff will ask you a lot of questions including where you live, questions about your insurance and income, questions about your child’s mental and physical health needs, family history, medications and most importantly they will ask you to describe what is happening in your child’s life that makes you feel they need mental health services. They will also ask about your child’s developmental history and if they have received services in the past. Your first call will usually take about 20-30 minutes.
The screening questions they ask help to determine if your child may be eligible for publicly provided mental health services. Even though it is sometimes uncomfortable to share these types of personal information, try not to worry too much about the information you share with the Access Center. The more they know about what is happening, the better they will be able to help you and your child. It is also helpful to remember that the information you share with the Access Center is considered confidential. (have word bolded for pop-up definition or add it)
Following the call to Access, the CMH will let you know if your child appears to be eligible for public mental health services. If they are, you will be given an appointment with a mental health care professional for a face-to-face intake appointment and/or assessment to confirm your child’s eligibility. Your first appointment will usually take place within two weeks of your call.
If after the screening, the CMH determines that your child is not eligible for services or that they are not the appropriate agency to meet your child’s needs, the Access center staff should provide information about other resources available in the community to help you. Sometimes services available elsewhere in the community have fees that are based on a person’s ability to pay. The staff should be able to let you know if you can expect to have any cost for the services. No one should be denied needed services based on their inability to pay.
If at any time during your call to Access the Access staff feels the situation you are describing is an emergency, you will be directed or connected to somewhere to go for immediate help. Crisis help is always available by calling any CMH 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.