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What You Need to Know about Community Mental Health in Utah

What You Need to Know about Community Mental Health in Utah

Community mental health is one of those buzzwords that some health practices like to use in branding their services. In the course of choosing their mental health provider, people may come across this phrase and wonder what precisely it means. The short answer here is that “community” most often equals residents with limited financial means and/or who have issues associated with impoverished neighborhoods. So while there are plenty of exceptions, people living in poverty are most likely to access the services offered by community mental health providers.


Community Mental Health vs. Universal Access

One of the potential misconceptions about community mental health is that it provides universal access. Often, these practices are associated with expanding access because of the vulnerable, underserved, or underprivileged populations they serve. Yet, this doesn’t necessarily mean they accept every form of financial authorization. Some practices have Medicaid contracts and other agreements with public assistance funds that do not include private insurance coverage. Some practices sit on insurance panels from a different insurance carrier. Likewise, these practices may or may not have a sliding fee scale that make a private-pay arrangement feasible for more Utah households.


Getting Help: Referrals and Emergency Services

It’s nearly impossible for even the largest providers to offer universal access. Even those providers who have the infrastructure to gain contracts with Medicaid, Medicare, and major insurance carriers, as well as independent grants and private-pay arrangements may reach their service capacity or specific contract quotas. In these cases, a referral is typically made that allows the individual to seek services elsewhere.

That said, there is one case in which universal access is available—a mental health emergency. If someone poses an immediate risk of harming themselves or someone else, call 911 or a Utah mental health hotline.


Standardized Mental Health Services

With all this in mind, what can one expect from these types of mental health services? There are no hard-and-fast rules, but overall there is more standardization associated with these services. When a social worker refers someone for a psychological evaluation, there is usually a prescribed number of hours and type of assessment (psychological, neuropsychological) that is authorized. The psychologist, meanwhile, still has discretion and authority over the specific tests and assessment tools that they employ. This standardization process may fail to accurately reflect the varying levels of complexities to individual cases. On the other hand, it’s also a relatively straightforward way to gain financial authorization for those who qualify.


Seeking out Financial Assistance

While we still have a long way to go before achieving universal coverage, it’s arguably easier than ever to get coverage for essential mental health services. Between newly enforced mental health parity rules and an agreement between the federal and Utah government to expand access to low-income households, many residents are gaining coverage to mental health resources for the first time. But more than just general eligibility, residents must apply and enroll in many programs in order to receive benefits. It’s crucial to consider all possible options before concluding that a lack of financial resources is, in fact, a barrier to access. And once services are authorized, don’t wait to get help from a Utah community mental health center or other qualified health providers.



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