Finding mental health help on a budget


The Senate may be debating health care reform, but passing legislation is far from a slam-dunk. For Americans who need help now with mental health issues, there are many low-cost options that can be found, if you know where to look.

Finding treatment

Whether you're suffering from stress or fighting with your spouse, there's a mental health expert trained to handle your issue. So put a call in to your local hospital, settlement house, charity, community mental health center, or psychotherapy or psychoanalytic institute. Many will provide care on a sliding scale -- some even for free. For example, rates at New York City's National Institute for the Psychotherapies start at $45, but for students, they begin at $30 and for the unemployed, $35. Adds board of director member Erika Nagy, "We are very flexible depending on a client's needs."

Another low-cost resource is a medical school or university with a mental health clinic. While many of the practitioners are being trained, they are closely supervised so quality of care remains high, says Dr. Jenn Berman, an L.A.-based psychotherapist and bestselling author.

You should also check to see if a nearby treatment center offers any affordable plans. Terri Hayden, director of Hazelden in St. Paul, says their out-patient programs can cost $20,000 less than the in-patient ones. Hazelden also offers some financial assistance for patients who can't afford the insurance co-pays. In addition, the center, which has locations in New York City, Chicago and Naples, FL, operates a 24-hour phone line -- 800-257-7810 -- to help people figure out what kind of assistance them may need and what they can afford.