Severe mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia are brain conditions that improve with treatment in the majority of cases.
They are typically treated with psychotropic medications, but may also be addressed with other therapies. Private and public psychiatrists, other therapists, local mental health departments, psychiatric crisis units, and others may provide treatment.
Options vary significantly between states and communities. Similar services go by different names in different locations. Diagnosis and psychiatric history, residency, insurance coverage, personal income and assets, hospital policies, civil commitment laws and many other variables come into play. Services may not be well-advertised. Be prepared to invest a significant amount of time identifying treatment options available where you live.
Be relentless. Persistence pays off. If one door is shut, try another.
Use these resources to get started:
- Professionals currently managing the person’s care. Psychiatrists and other physicians, case workers and other mental health professionals or any other health care professional already involved.
- Local or state NAMI officials and members. Local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) affiliates include family members and consumers who may already be familiar with treatment options where you live and who are likely to be eager to help you. Click here to find your nearest affiliate. If there is no chapter near you, the central office in your state may be able to help.
- Government agencies. The state or county Department of Mental Health, or any other official, organization or department will be familiar with at least some of the local treatment options.
- Our website. Civil commitment is a process used in every state to provide treatment to people in a mental illness crisis.
For a general overview of this process, click on Know the Laws in Your State or use the state map on any page of the website to learn more about mental health in your state.
State law information may also be accessed from your smartphone with our Psychiatric Crisis App.
- Visits and interviews. If the treatment option you are considering involves an inpatient or outpatient facility, whether public or private, schedule a tour of the property and an interview with whoever supervises patient care.
Investigate eligibility requirements:
- Ask for written policies governing eligibility. Some agencies and facilities will have eligibility standards that must be met before services are provided. Find out what those standards are. Ask if private and/or public insurance payment is accepted, if you or your loved one has access to these resources. Request applications.
- Always assume eligibility and apply for services.
- Never take the first “No” for an answer. Whether rejection comes from a public or private provider or insurance company, appeal a rejection. Follow the procedures exactly. Providers can only say “No” again. And they may say “Yes.”
- Contact a lawyer, your local Legal Aid Society, a disability rights organization or another advocate if you continue to get rejections. Sometimes professionals can break through barriers that you can’t.
Download our flyer, "Eliminating Barriers - Tips for Busting Through" for additional recommendations.