Role of Mental Health Programs in the Community

Community mental health programs are important for every community. These programs offer all citizens access to essential mental health treatment and resources. This affords access to medication, counseling and emergency mental health services for individuals who may not have health care or the financial means to pay for appointments and medication.

Community based mental health services are often provided at little or no cost to individuals that meet certain requirements that may include gross income limits, unemployment, residence within certain postal codes and insurance criteria.

Services are often provided at community health centers located within high-need areas or at offices of counselors within a network. The community centers may offer classes, assessments, counseling appointments and pharmaceutical services in one location at a discounted price or even free of charge. Other services these centers may provide citizens are support groups, group counseling and classes over topics such as PTSD, coping skills, parenting, relationships and resource generation.

These centers may also provide emergency or court ordered substance abuse services along with mental health services. Substance abuse services may be court-mandated or voluntary, but often include assessments, drug and alcohol classes, counseling, support groups and drug testing services.

Community mental health centers and programs often receive the majority of their funding from state and local governments. In turn, agencies can partner with courts and other government agencies to provide "wrap around services" to individuals receiving their services. This type of mental health care delivery is often seen in childhood services, which can prevent vulnerable children from slipping through the cracks when they need psychological or behavioral services.

Mental health agencies in the community not only provide services and advocacy to clients, but also spread awareness and educate the community regarding mental illness. These agencies may also raise money to generate funds to provide discounted services to people who don't qualify for free services.

One of these agencies, which can be found in locations nationwide, is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is the nation's largest nonprofit mental health education, advocacy and support organization working to end stigma of mental illness ( NAMI has paved the way for many changes in mental health reform, and remains a prominent advocate for community based mental health services.

Agencies and citizens seeking services can reach out to NAMI for resources and support. You can also help to improve community based mental health efforts in your own area by earning your psychology degree, or advancing the degree you already have. We offer listings of schools across the nation that offer degrees that can help position you as a leader in community mental health, thus expanding services to the populations that need them.

Take some time to reach out to schools to learn more.