Navigating Indigent Medical Care Systems

The last week has been an exercise on how to navigate Medi-Cal (California’s health insurance for low or no income people) for one of my children with diagnosed  bi-polar disorder.   The last year has been one of rapid and/or mixed cycling.  Life has turned upside down – a full 180 degrees from where it was this time last year.

There was a good, solid outpatient program where he recently lived – but circumstances left no housing options.  I am grateful my child felt safe in coming home.

We have qualified for Medi-Cal insurance which also offers mental health benefits.  Kind of.  What we have learned is that it does not, it seems, cover outpatient programs.  It covers crisis/in patient services … IF you are either homicidal or suicidal.  There are a combined total of 300 beds in mental health facilities in our county – almost always full.  If you require admittance due to a crisis situation, a bed will be found for you – but in the absence of one in our community/county, that bed could be anywhere in the State of California.


Bi-Polar Disorder Is A Distorting Place To Live
Bi-Polar Disorder Is A Distorting Place To Live


A referral is required to a psychiatrist for medication evaluation and management and therapy.  It could take months.  There is a 10-day supply of meds left.  One of them costs $800 a month.

We are learning the reality that the very people who need these kinds of services the most are often, without advocacy, the least capable of navigating the system.  I am grateful that we are working through it together.

On Friday we will hopefully know more – make more progress towards getting in to see a mental health professional to help maintain a stabilized level and then get into some type of program and continue cognitive behavioral therapy.  Once we can get to a psychiatrist, hopefully we can work on qualifying for SSI disability and medicare – then there will be qualification and coverage for intensive outpatient therapy.   Bi-polar disorder, like many mental health disorders, is debilitating.

In the mean time, I am learning all I can about bi-polar disorder, how it affects my child, how best I can help.  It’s a lot of learning.  My child and a million others need help through no fault of their own.  Why must it be so difficult to obtain without costing atrocious amounts of money?

Have you had experience in dealing with “the system”?  Any suggestions?

Namaste my friends – and hope, love and support to you if you or a loved one struggles … I honor your struggle …

Itty Bitty



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