Many individuals are unaware that publicly funded mental health services are available in their state. People seeking free or low-cost counseling often think that their only options are counselors in private offices and are unaware of the publicly funded providers in their communities. Both state and federal laws require health plans to provide treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. This includes behavioral health care, such as counseling and psychotherapy; inpatient mental and behavioral health services; and substance use disorder treatment.
California law also requires that all plans cover behavioral health treatment for autism or generalized developmental disorder, which is often identified during childhood. Read your evidence of coverage or call the phone number on your health plan membership card to ask your health plan to see a behavioral health care provider. Your health plan will review the complaint and ensure that you can access the necessary medical care in a timely manner. Health plans cannot charge more for mental health services and substance use disorders than for physical health conditions.
Both state and federal laws apply to health coverage for mental health and substance use disorders in California. Services covered by Medi-Cal include outpatient mental health services, such as individual or group counseling, specialized outpatient mental health services, inpatient mental health services, inpatient mental health services, outpatient substance use disorder services, residential treatment services, and voluntary inpatient detoxification. In some health plans, you may be able to schedule an appointment directly with a behavioral health care provider. California has launched its first statewide mental health line, which is free and staffed every day.
A regional center is a private, non-profit corporation that contracts with the California Department of Developmental Services to provide or coordinate services. Federal law under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) states that mental and behavioral health services are essential health benefits that must be covered.
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