Help For Getting Help
By Beth Albaneze, CTRS, CPRP, CLP
Few things in life are more stressful than realizing you need to find mental health-related services for a loved one. First comes the emotional toll of recognizing that someone you love needs a specialized kind of help that you can’t provide. That quickly gives way to the often overwhelming task of actually finding a facility or a service that can provide appropriate care at a rate that’s not prohibitive, and then convincing your loved one to go there. It can be daunting to find the right help, but here are some steps you can take to get started:
1. If your loved one is already in the care of a mental health care professional, or even a medical doctor, ask the provider for recommendations for specialized treatment facilities. Not only do they know your loved one and what they need, but they also know which area facilities and providers can best provide it.
2. If you’re starting to look for services on your own, and there’s no emergency present, a simple internet search can help guide you. While the internet shouldn’t take the place of a personal recommendation from an existing care provider, reading reviews online can help you steer away from obviously undesirable facilities, determine what questions to ask when you call the facility, and help you understand the kind of services they offer.
Key things to consider when searching are the location of the service, type of service (such as inpatient versus outpatient treatment), specialty areas (such as addiction recovery, eating disorder treatment, and Alzheimer’s care), and cost and insurance coverage. You can also look at government and mental health associations’ websites for information about conditions and providers. You can start with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (samhsa.gov). But don’t ever forget to consider the age and preferences of the person you want to help. Not only is it the decent thing to do, but taking their input and including them in decisions demonstrates your respect for them. That can go a long way in gaining their trust – a trust that is often shaken by this process – and any gains you can make there will pay off in the long run.
3. If you’re concerned that your loved one’s condition may be escalating or worsening, call the non-emergency number of your local law enforcement agency, and ask them to connect you with the mental health crisis team. While each team may be different, depending on local resources and priorities, most places have a group composed of mental health providers (e.g., psychiatric nurses, social workers, or psychologists) and law enforcement officers who are specially trained to handle mental crises. If your loved one is resistant to care, a crisis team can help you get your loved one into treatment.
4. If your loved one is violent or acting erratically in a way that threatens or scares you, do not call 911. Rather, call the County Crisis Center (240-777-4000). The County Crisis Center will come to your home with a police officer and a trained mental health professional. Be prepared, though, because this call will result in a law enforcement response that is likely to include handcuffing your loved one to subdue them. Many people aren’t ready to see someone they love in handcuffs, and they’re shocked when it happens. But, when safety becomes an issue, handcuffs may be the best way to thwart it. Even though it may feel at first like you were dropped into the middle of a complicated maze (and in some ways, you were), you don’t have to navigate it alone. As you can see, there are many options along the way for finding your loved one quality care that you can trust and afford.