Behavioral Health Information
Behavioral health disruptions are common. Estimates are that about one in five American adults experience a behavioral health issue; that one in 10 young people experience a period of major depression; and that one in 25 Americans live with a significant behavioral health condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, exceeding the number of deaths by homicide.
Behavioral health conditions are typically categorized into groups such as Anxiety Disorders, Mood Disorders (including Depression and Bipolar Disorders), Eating Disorders, Psychotic Disorders and Trauma Related Disorders. These problems may occur along with Substance Use Disorders. For children, we often speak also about Attention Deficit Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Effective treatments are available for most behavioral health conditions and individuals can and do recover. Increasingly, effective services focus on addressing the needs of the whole person and the interplay of behavioral health and physical health conditions, as well as the role of trauma in the development of all health problems.
Behavioral health conditions have been associated with Adverse Childhood Experiences, or childhood traumas. We now know that trauma plays a significant role in the lives of many Americans and that the experience of childhood stress and trauma also negatively impact our health and quality of life as adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study demonstrated that stressful childhood experiences including abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, and growing up with substance abuse, behavioral health issues or crime in the home are related to short- and long-term problems, including behavioral health conditions. The more adverse experiences a child had, the higher the likelihood of developing later problems, including but not limited to alcoholism and alcohol abuse, depression, sexually transmitted diseases and suicide. Learn more about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE).
Reliable information about behavioral health conditions and treatments is available on numerous web sites, including:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency which evaluates programs and develops strategies to promote behavioral health.
MentalHealth.gov, which was created to launch a national dialogue on behavioral health and provides one-stop access to U.S. government behavioral health resources and information.
Mental Health America, a network of community affiliates, of which The Mental Health Association of Westchester is a member. Mental Health America promotes prevention, early identification and intervention of behavioral health challenges and integrated care as needed.
National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nation-wide organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals who have behavioral health conditions through education and advocacy.
The National Institute of Mental Health, the lead federal agency dedicated to research on behavioral health conditions.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which reduces the impact of substance abuse and behavioral health issues through research, services and disseminating information.
Finding a Therapist
When behavioral health issues impact an individual’s ability to live independently, hold steady employment or attend school, enjoy relationships with others or – for children - develop in age-expected ways, appropriate supports and services may help. Behavioral health conditions can be treated successfully. MHA prioritizes person-centered and recovery-oriented practice, and where available, the use of evidence-based treatments or best practices.
Finding the therapist who is right for you is vital for successful treatment and recovery. It is important to work with a therapist with whom you feel comfortable and who is experienced in assisting with the problems you are having.
Suggestions for finding a therapist can come from:
Your doctor, family members, a member of the clergy or trusted friends
MHA’s Information and Referral Service at 914-345-0700, ext. 7303 or firstname.lastname@example.org
United Ways’ Hudson Valley 2-1-1, a searchable database of services in Westchester and nearby counties
Your Medicaid, other managed care or insurance company’s list of providers
New York State does not regulate the use of the title “therapist” or “psychotherapist.” This means that people who do not have formal training and qualifications can use these titles to describe themselves. It is important to ask a potential therapist about education, training, experience and New York State licensure.
To verify if a therapist is licensed or certified, visit the New York State Education Department website or contact the department 518-747-3817.
Assistance With Grievances
You may pursue a grievance if you or someone you care about is having difficulty with an agency in New York State that provides behavioral health services, including the Mental Health Association of Westchester. If you cannot resolve the issue through direct discussion with the provider, the resources below can help.
New York State Justice Center
The Justice Center has oversight responsibility for programs that provide services to people with special needs, including behavioral health issues and developmental disabilities. Contact them with questions or complaints about services provided at state operated, licensed and certified facilities and programs.
New York State Office of Mental Health
800-597-8481, Customer Relations Office
The New York State Office of Mental Health is responsible for services to residents who have behavioral health conditions. The Customer Relations Office assists with questions or complaints about services provided in New York State.
Disability Rights New York
Disability Rights New York is a not-for-profit organization that investigates complaints and provides direct assistance to resolve disability-related issues for New York State residents.
Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health
The Department of Community Mental Health is a Westchester County government agency that has responsibility for the development and oversight of behavioral health services in Westchester County.
New York State Behavioral Health Medicaid Managed Care:
If a Medicaid member or provider is not satisfied with the care or services that a managed care plan is providing, they may file a formal complaint with the plan, the State or both. Your member handbook provides information about filing a complaint with the plan. To file a complaint with the State, contact the NYSDOH Managed Care Complaint Line by phone at 1-800-206-8125 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Additional information about Complaints and Appeals is found online.
Benefits and Entitlements
Individuals who have been diagnosed with a behavioral health condition are entitled to certain protections, benefits and entitlements under the law. The following describes some benefits and links to websites which provide additional information about those rights.
Several benefits are administered through the Social Security Administration. In Westchester County, you can phone your local Social Security office at 914-995-3333 or find the closest office by using the online locator.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that ensures equal opportunity in employment, public accommodations, transportation, government services and telecommunications for people with disabilities, including “physical or behavioral impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Details about ADA protections are available online.
Food Stamps and Other Food Programs
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamp Program, helps low-income households buy food. For more information, contact your local Social Security Office.
Medicaid provides medical assistance for certain individuals and families with low incomes and low resources. You may be eligible to receive Medicaid if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or if you meet certain income, resource, age, disability or other criteria. Details about NYS Medicaid, including application information are found online. In Westchester, you can also contact the local Department of Social Services office at 914-995-3333.
Medicare is our country's health insurance program for people age 65 and older. People younger than 65 who have certain disabilities may also qualify. The program helps with the cost of health care, but it does not cover all medical expenses or the cost of most long-term care. Medicare supplement policy (called Medigap) purchased from a private insurance company can cover some of the costs that Medicare does not. Learn more at the Medicare website and in this useful pamphlet. You can also call their toll-free number at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
Medication Grant Program
The Medication Grant Program can help pay for your behavioral health medications while you are waiting for Medicaid eligibility determination. This program can help if you are being discharged from a hospital or released from the Westchester County jail or a state prison and are in need of behavioral health medication. Representatives at the hospital or jail can help you apply, or you can contact Joanna Young, Westchester DCMH at 914-995-4625.
Section 8 Rental Housing Voucher
The Section 8 Rental Housing Voucher is a government program for assisting low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to rent housing in the private market, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments, providing the housing falls at or below fair market rents. Specific information about the benefit is available from CVR New York, the local administrator of the Westchester Choice Voucher Program or through the Westchester County Department of Planning, 914-995-2415.
Social Security benefits are paid to those who have worked and paid Social Security taxes and/or to their survivors and dependents. Learn about Retirement Benefits and Survivors Benefits.
Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may be available if you cannot work because of a medical condition. “Social Security Disability Benefits” is a useful pamphlet that summarizes the benefits, how to apply, and the Ticket to Work program. For more information, contact your local Social Security Office.
Supplementary Security Income
Supplementary Security Income (SSI) benefits may be available to adults and children who have disabilities, along with limited income and resources, and also for individuals who are 65 and older without disabilities who meet the financial requirements. A useful pamphlet describes the benefits and how to apply.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency. Learn more about the federal TANF program, about employment opportunities in Westchester and about Family Assistance in Westchester.
Assistance with Moving Expenses
Individuals who receive either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and who face emergency situations that endanger their housing may be eligible for emergency financial assistance to help prevent homelessness; pay moving expenses, security deposits and realty fees; and provide a furniture allowance. You can apply for these benefits at your local Westchester County District Office.