College graduation, for many young people symbolizes the entry into “the real world.” For some, the transition can be especially challenging.

For many young people with a mental health condition, and who don’t have steady jobs or stable paychecks, managing their own health care for the first time can be daunting.

Young adults and recent grads were recently asked on NPR’s Facebook page to share their stories. Some said they didn’t have health insurance, and others couldn’t find providers covered by their insurance plans. Still others were able to find therapists who took insurance, but had to stop going because of high deductibles, or because they couldn’t afford the $23 to $80 copays.

Some felt they couldn’t take time off from new jobs and internships to see a therapist regularly and several said they had trouble finding someone who had experience working with young patients.

Luis Ramirez, the associate director of clinical services at New York University said, “the trick is planning ahead” before graduation. Counselors at his school often work with students to help them find providers in the community. The school also helps graduating students who are moving away from New York find therapists in their new location. “We’ve helped students find providers in China,” he says.

“Sometimes it takes seeing one or two or three different therapists before you find one that fits,” he says. He recommends students screen providers by talking on the phone. “I really encourage students to not throw in the towel.”
Darcy Gruttadaro, who directs the Child and Adolescent Action Center at the National Alliance on Mental Illness says, “with any transition in life, that transition provides a certain set of challenges. When you combine that with mental health issues, that can be really challenging.”

The Affordable Care Act has made it a bit easier for young people to get mental health care. Young people can stay on their parents’ insurance till they’re 26, or get low-cost coverage through state or federal exchanges. And federal health law requires insurance companies to provide the same amount of coverage for mental health as they do for medical and surgical treatment.

Some therapists are willing to lower their prices Gruttadaro says. And patients shouldn’t hesitate to ask a therapist if they have a sliding scale for fees. Still, weekly therapy sessions can be unaffordable.

Gruttadaro believes support from peers can be crucial, especially for those who are having trouble finding care. “Connect with other young people who may be experiencing the same circumstances.”     NPR Shots     6/4/14

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