What is a Community Mental Health Center?

Community Mental Health Centers

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Community Mental Health Centers Act. This act required that federal and state funding be made available for indigent and low-income people with mental health disorders so that they could receive a diagnosis and treatment. These locally-based community mental health centers offer easy access, are typically located near public transportation and offer free or sliding-scale care for the people who need it.

Who Can Go to a Community Mental Health Center

People of all ages may receive mental health care services at a community mental health center. Anyone who does not have health insurance with mental health benefits can use the community mental health center. People without medical insurance can also use the centers. The centers have specialized services for serving children, the elderly, patients with serious mental health diseases and people who have recently been discharged from an inpatient psychiatric hospital, drug treatment program or mental health program.

Types of Professionals Who Work at Community Mental Health Centers

Many different professionals work at community mental health centers. Counselors and therapists offer individual and group counseling to patients. Licensed clinical social workers fulfill many roles at the community health centers. They may function as care coordinators, resource locators, intake specialists, outreach coordinators and run support groups. Activity coordinators offer workshops and programs during the daytime and evening hours. Social workers and registered nurses offer care coordination with the patient’s medical providers and other community service programs. The centers also have administrative staff for handling scheduling, billing, payments and the general operations of the facility.

Services Provided at Community Mental Health Centers

Community mental health centers offer a wide range of outpatient services to patients. Individual and group therapy sessions are available. These sessions might be themed around a particular topic such as anger management or identifying triggers. Group activities such as arts and crafts, games or puzzles may be held. These activities help patients develop healthy social skills so that they can communicate with others. Patients can also get their community services streamlined. They may be able to apply for other assistance programs such as food or housing during their appointments with the center’s social workers. Workshops withe age-appropriate activities are available for children and seniors. For example, children’s workshops at a community mental health center might include playing with puppets or painting with water colors.

Quality of Care at Community Mental Health Centers

Community mental health centers must adhere to specific federal guidelines for quality of care. They are routinely audited and inspected. The federal money provided to the center does not meet the facility’s entire budget needs. State and local dollars also contribute to the operations of the facility. The patient fees from sliding scale payments make up the remainder of the community mental health center’s operational expenses.

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Community mental health centers provide essential mental health care to people who would not be able to access the services any other way. These centers also help people coordinate their spectrum of social services and other health services with their mental health treatment program. Staffed by professionals and regularly audited for quality, community mental health centers are set up to be an essential part of the public social safety net.