The Affordable Care Act expanded the requirement for insurers to cover mental health services, including mental health services for Medi-Cal members. CenCal Health is the Medi-Cal managed care provider for the county; anyone who has Medi-Cal in SLO County is a CenCal member. CenCal now covers mental health services for Medi-Cal members with mild to moderate mental health conditions. For members with more severe mental health conditions, the County of San Luis Obispo continues to provide specialty mental health services.
New Resource to Help Parents Find the Right Mental Health Therapist
Finding the right mental health therapist for a young child can be challenging. It can be difficult to know who is best qualified to treat children under six and how to ensure that the fit is right.
Parent Connection, an online resource center with information about local parenting classes, access to free parent coaching services, and specific resources for children with behavioral health issues and other special needs.
A list of mental health providers developed by the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program of SLO County Public Health is also available for download:
Mental Health Referral List, updated Jan. 2017.xls
Family Resource Centers can help with non-medical needs too, such as food, clothing, and shelter.
Free/Low-Cost Counseling at the Child Development Resource Center
The Child Development Resource Center of the Central Coast (CDRC) offers play therapy for children and individual and family therapy for children, teens, and adults. Families do not need to be affiliated with CDRC to receive services. Counseling is provided both in San Luis Obispo and at the Coastal Family Resource Center in Los Osos.
Families with Medi-Cal can access counseling for free or a small fee, while families with no insurance have a low-cost sliding scale. CDRC does not accept private insurance. For more information, call 544-0801 and visit CDRC online.
Latino Outreach Program: Counseling in Spanish
The Latino Outreach Program provides counseling in Spanish for adults and for children ages 5 and up, with no residency requirements. There are currently 3.5 full time bilingual, bicultural mental health therapists working through Latino Outreach. They are based at family resource centers around the county. The program does have a waitlist, so referrals should be made promptly by faxing the Latino Outreach Referral Form to Silvia Ortiz at 541-5280.
Martha's Place Assesses and Treats Children
Are you concerned about a child ages birth to five who does not seem to be developing normally and/or is exhibiting concerning behaviors? Make a referral to Martha's Place.
Martha's Place focuses on the assessment and treatment of children birth to five who exhibit at-risk behaviors that may be interfering with their normal development and/or who have been prenatally exposed to alcohol or other substances. All children with Medi-Cal or no insurance, regardless of legal status, are eligible for an initial comprehensive assessment of their medical, cognitive, behavioral, social, educational and emotional development.
The assessment is then used to recommend needed services and to help families access services through Martha's Place and other providers. Post-assessment services may include mental health therapy, occupational therapy, case management, additional testing, and caregiver support. Services depend on the child's needs and insurance coverage. Note that Martha's Place does not accept private health insurance.
The program is overseen by SLO County Mental Health. Children can be referred directly by faxing the Martha's Place Referral Form to 781-4962 or by calling Laura Ottrando, RN, PHN, at 781-4964. Parents may need help with the required intake paperwork. If transportation to the initial assessment is a problem for a Medi-Cal patient, they can access Ride-On transportation.
Low-income residents who do not qualify for other health insurance but are homeless are eligible for care through CHC's Homeless Services. Providers and clients can contact Joe Gossner (North & Central) at 459-7476 or Jan Stone (South County), 723-4699 for services. Case management is not mandatory, though clients must try to sign up for Medi-Cal (this will not affect immigration status).
Medi-Cal Covers More Counseling and Drug & Alcohol Services
Beginning January 1, 2014, Medi-Cal now covers more behavioral health services , both counseling and drug and alcohol treatment. This is a result of federal health care reform, which requires that Medi-Cal provide 10 Essential Health Benefits that include mental health and substance use disorder benefits.
Medi-Cal members can access psychological services for mild to moderate conditions through The Holman Group. The Holman Group has developed a provider network that includes social workers (LCSWs), therapists (MFTs), psychologists, and psychiatrists. CenCal Health members can be referred by their primary care physician to mental health services.
Members may also self-refer by calling The Holman Group at (800) 321-2843. When calling The Holman Group directly for services, ask for 'Care Access' to identify the program you are calling about. The Holman Group administer several different programs and asking for 'Care Access' first will help your referral process.
The County Mental Health Department continues to provide services for specialty mental health (i.e. severe disorders) and County Drug & Alcohol continues to provide treatment for those who meet criteria for Alcohol and Substance Use Disorder Services.
Expanded Medi-Cal substance use disorder benefits include:
Intensive outpatient treatment
Residential substance use disorder services
Elective inpatient detox
Outpatient drug-free counseling
Narcotic replacement therapy (methadone).
The Affordable Care Act recognizes substance use disorder as a chronic disease. The law also encourages medical providers to screen for addiction.