Where to Start

What Are My First Steps to Getting Help?  
1 out of 5 children experience a mental health challenge in a given year.  The good news is YOU can make a difference in a child’s life by getting help early. 

What Do I Do If I’m Concerned about a Child?

STEP 1
 Learn about Child Development
Every child needs to be nurtured from the inside out to develop the socio-emotional, physical and cognitive skills needed to be successful in learning and in life. Children are more likely to overcome mental health symptoms with their parent’s or caregiver’s support, and a commitment to finding the right services.

STEP 2: Talk to Your Healthcare Provider
Talk with your child’s doctor, counselor, family, teacher, family support staff, early intervention specialist, or healthcare provider. If you are in need of Mental Health Services for a child, but are not in crisis, the services available depend on the type of healthcare coverage you have.

  • If you have private insurance you can look on the back of your insurance card to locate the direct number to call to find the right provider in your network.
  • If you purchased health insurance through the Washington Benefit Exchange and experience any difficulty accessing your mental health benefit, contact your insurance company directly.
  • No Insurance: Call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or access the web site at www.parenthelp123/resources. Many therapists and community health centers offer services on a sliding scale.
STEP 3:  Screen or Assess Your Child
What questions should I ask a provider? Before you visit your provider it is helpful to write down some questions that you want to ask:
  • Do you involve parents (or guardians) in the counseling process?
  • Do you provide family therapy? How do you decide if this is needed?
  • What criteria do you use to determine whether or not a child needs medication? To whom do you refer for this type of assessment?
  • If my child needs special accommodations at school, do you assist in making these arrangements?
  • How flexible is your appointment schedule? Do you offer after school/ evening/Saturday appointments?
  • If you or I decide that you and my child might not work well together, will you be able to suggest other referrals?
  • What is your training and experience working with Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health, as well as working with families from diverse backgrounds?
  • My child has been having some problems in the following areas... (Provide examples of the behaviors that concern you).
STEP 4:  Access Services
To access community mental health services you have a few options:
  • You can contact the Access Line at Volunteers of America at 1-888-693-7200. You will talk with a professional and they will help determine what your child’s needs are and help set up a mental health assessment and appointment for your child. If you need an expedited appointment tell them why there is urgency and they should help you set that up. Be specific about the presenting need and share the symptoms that your child is experiencing. This will help determine whether or not your child qualifies for services.  (Often times the clinician doing the assessment is not the clinician your child will be seeing)
  • Anyone can call the Volunteers of America Care Crisis Line at 1‐800‐584‐3578.  This service is 24/7 and free. They can connect you to a mental health provider and may also have your child evaluated in their home.
Information sources:
National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Institute of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Mayo Clinic

Children Holding Hands