Mental Health on a Shoestring Budget

Mental Health on a Shoestring Budget

Five ways to get mental health services for next to nothing.

Published April 27, 2011


(Photo: Kurt Strazdins/Landov)


Mental Health is a topic that is too often swept under the rug in the African-American community. For this reason, less than half of those who suffer from mental illness seek treatment. Now, with health-care reform currently in transition and states across the country considering budget cuts, that number may increase.

The irony is, when funds are low this is usually the time when mental health care is needed the most. No matter how hard times are, though, you can always afford to take care of yourself, you’ll just have to learn how to be creative to get it.


You'll need to figure out your health-insurance situation. You have to know what your plan covers and what it doesn't, this can vary greatly from one plan to the next. Remember that the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act demands that anyone who has a group health plan has to be offered some kind of mental health benefits, though you may still have to pay some part of the bill.

If you still can’t afford care, or you don’t have health insurance at all, here are a few inexpensive ideas to help you get the services that you need:


Check out your community health center. A lot of centers may be the first place the budget cuts start, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out the services they offer now. You will find that a lot of state-run centers have some kind of inexpensive inpatient or outpatient services. To get started, check out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s Mental Health Locator.


Look for nonprofits. Organizations such as The National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America are dedicated to helping people find the health care that’s right for them. Both have local partners in most areas that will be able to refer you directly a staff member to help you understand your current health policy if you have questions.


Call a local college. Some universities have graduate programs that offer mental health programs to the local community, usually run by advanced students in psychology, psychiatry, social work or counseling. You would likely be cared for by a student close to graduation, supervised by a professor of course, who would be licensed.


Consider group therapy. Sometimes group therapy is offered as a cheaper alternative to independent sessions. If you’re already seeing a provider and are thinking of no longer going because of the cost, ask your therapist for a recommendation or find a group on your own using the American Group Psychotherapy Association’s locator.


Ask if they offer sliding fees. Most state's licensing boards can point you in the direction of a doctor who charges depending on your income or what you can afford. If you’re already going to one, let your therapist know about your financial condition and see if he’d be willing to work with you.

Written by Brandi Tape


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