Your (Unofficial) Guide to State-Sponsored Therapy in Kentucky
There’s a way to get affordable mental health care that you might not know about. That’s Kentucky’s mental health system.
If you qualify, you can get mental health care at a Kentucky community mental health center for a small co-pay or a low sliding-scale fee. But even if you don’t qualify for services at a state-funded provider, Kentucky’s system can still give you information, local referrals to affordable providers, and other essential help for free.
If you’re in a hurry and want to get the most essential information about what’s available at your local program and who it’s for, you can read our quick start guide below.
To learn more about public mental health services in Kentucky, keep reading. We’ve done the research to uncover essential facts about who’s eligible, what services you can get, when to go, where to call, and how it works so you can decide if Kentucky’s mental health system might be right for you.
Who Is Eligible?
The Kentucky public mental health system can meet many people’s needs, but you should especially consider looking into it if you (or a loved one) are having a mental health crisis, have a severe mental health condition, have Medicaid, or have a limited income.
Everyone in Kentucky can use the state-funded mental health emergency response system. If you or someone you love is in crisis, you can call your local crisis line to get the help you need, quickly.
Use the State System When You're in Crisis
Public mental health services are usually the best option if you’re having a mental health crisis and need help right away.
State mental health programs are required to provide mental health crisis response services and are one of the fastest ways to get care when you’re having a mental health emergency.
The people who answer crisis lines can provide caring attention and support as they help you determine the best response to a crisis, whether it’s inpatient treatment or an appointment with a counselor.
Even if you’re not in crisis, you can call your local mental health hotline for information about affordable mental health services in your area. When you call, you can find out whether you might qualify for state-funded mental health services, schedule an assessment or intake appointment, or get free information about other affordable local providers.
In general, all you need to be eligible for services at a Kentucky CMHC is a mental health condition that is affecting your ability to function in your daily life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be severe as long as it is having an impact. However, at times of high demand or low staffing (or funding), Kentucky CMHCs may prioritize serving people with more severe clinical issues.
If you do have a severe condition, CMHCs are an important option to consider. They stand out when it comes to specialty and intensive mental health services like case management, day treatment, and wraparound care. All CMHCs offer these services, and they can be hard to find anywhere else.
Check Out the State System If You Need Specialized Services
Community mental health centers in Kentucky are great places to find specialized and intensive mental health services like case management and day treatment that can be hard to find anywhere else. These specialty programs can give you extra help when you’re dealing with severe symptoms.
One of the most important requirements you need to meet to get services at a community mental health center in Kentucky is to be a resident of the region it serves.
The public mental health system is a great option if you’re a local resident with a public insurance plan. If you qualify for Medicaid, you can use it to get services at your area’s community mental health center. All CMHCs in Kentucky accept Medicaid, and it can be hard to find other providers who do.
However, you don’t have to have Medicaid to go to a community mental health center. Kentucky CMHCs don’t have strict income or financial requirements. Public mental health clinics in Kentucky accept out-of-pocket payment, Medicaid, Medicare, and a range of private insurance plans. If you don’t have insurance, the fees you pay will be based on your income.
Are You Eligible for Medicaid?
Kentucky has fewer requirements for Medicaid than many states. Kentucky accepted federal Medicaid expansion in 2014, so you’re eligible for Medicaid in Kentucky if your income is 138 percent of the federal poverty level or less.
You may also qualify based on a combination of your income, your medical history, and your mental health condition. If you’re not sure whether you’re eligible, it’s worth looking into. You can apply for Medicaid in Kentucky in person, by phone, or online. To learn more, visit the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ “How to Apply” page.
While Kentucky doesn’t have strict eligibility requirements to get services at a CMHC, changes to funding or staffing can affect which services are available and whether there’s a waitlist.
Some CMHCs in Kentucky only offer individual counseling on a short-term basis, or otherwise limit therapy based on funding and demand. You can call your local CMHC for more information.
You should call even if you’re not sure whether you’re eligible or don’t know if CMHC services are right for you. Even if there’s a long waitlist, admission is currently limited, or the program doesn’t offer the service you want, your local community mental health center can probably still help you.
People who work at community mental health centers are knowledgeable about local resources and will often give you free information or even referrals to other affordable providers nearby, including local non-profits that provide free or low-cost counseling.
Where Do You Call to Get Started?
The easiest way to learn more about state mental healthcare in Kentucky is to call your local mental health hotline or community mental health center. You can find which program serves your region and their contact information in the directory in the next section.
You can also use one of the search tools on the Kentucky Division of Behavioral Health’s website or call one of the statewide help or support lines that are listed directly below.
Important Numbers in Kentucky
You can reach the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline by calling 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).
Public mental health services in Kentucky are managed on the state level by the Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) within the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities. For general information about Kentucky’s system, you can contact DBH by calling (502) 564-4456.
However, you’ll probably get the best results by calling your local CMHC directly. You can find their number in the directory section below.
Kentucky CMHC Directory
Public outpatient mental health services in Kentucky are provided by programs called community mental health centers. Each CMHC serves a region made up of several counties. There are currently 14 CMHCs serving Kentucky’s 120 counties. Each CMHC has several locations throughout the region and operates a regional crisis line.
The best way to find out about public mental health services where you live is to call your region’s CMHC or crisis line. You can find which CMHC serves your county and which number to call below.
If you need information after hours or aren’t sure whether you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, it’s okay to call a crisis line for help. The staff who answer are trained to quickly figure out what you need and can tell you what steps you need to take to connect with the right services.
Also Consider: Federally Qualified Health Centers
Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) are another great way to get affordable publicly-funded mental health services in Kentucky.
These federally-funded programs provide cutting-edge care in places where good primary healthcare was once hard to find. Most provide integrated care so you can get primary medical and mental health services at the same location. Each FQHC accepts Medicaid and Medicare and offers low sliding-scale fees if you don’t have insurance.
You can search for FQHCs near you by using the online search tool on the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration website.
The state mental health system is complicated and can be confusing to navigate. If you’re having any issues, we’re here to help. Here are some of our solutions to common problems you might experience.
If you’ve run into a problem that we haven’t addressed, don’t give up. Call someone at the program (or a local hotline) and tell them what’s going on.
You’re much more likely to get the help you need when you advocate for yourself and are persistent. Tell the person you talk to what you need or what problem you’re having.
If they don’t help the first time, call them back and tell them. If you keep calling and keep calm and focused, you should eventually get through to someone who can help you.
Deep Dive: How Does the System Work?
To understand Kentucky’s mental health system, it helps to understand how it started and how it’s changed since then.
Public mental health services have been around for a surprisingly long time. But for over a hundred years in America, the only way to get them was in a psychiatric hospital.
For More Information
To learn more about what the public mental health system was like in the early days—and how psychiatric inpatient care has evolved since then—you can read our article “Do Insane Asylums Still Exist? The Surprising Past and Present.”
To learn more about what inpatient mental health treatment is like now, and the differences between how it works in general hospitals and specialized psychiatric facilities, you can read our article “How Inpatient Mental Health Treatment Works.”
In the 1960s, Americans started thinking differently about mental health care. Conditions in psychiatric hospitals were getting worse and new medications made it possible to provide mental health treatment on an outpatient basis.
In response, new laws were passed that required state and local governments to establish community mental health programs as alternatives to institutionalization for people with serious mental illness. The most important was the Community Mental Health Act, which President John F. Kennedy signed into law in 1963.
What Is the Focus of the Kentucky Mental Heath System?
Community mental health centers (CMHCs) in Kentucky are publicly-funded outpatient programs that provide mental health care for people in the counties they serve.
They are open to anyone who has a mental health condition or issue that is affecting their ability to function in their daily life. However, they have a special focus on people who have severe conditions or who lack the means to access outpatient mental health services in the private sector.
In addition to affordable therapy, CMHCs provide specialized and intensive services that can be hard to find anywhere else. This makes them a great option for people who need intensive treatment, live in a rural area with limited resources, or can’t access mental health care in the private sector due to their diagnosis or financial situation.
Many state mental health programs trace their origins back to the 1960s when these important changes started to happen. Kentucky is no exception.
In fact, Kentucky was the first state in the nation to establish a full statewide network of community mental health centers. Kentucky passed its own state Community Mental Health Services Act in 1964, and funding and construction of CMHCs began immediately afterward.
Kentucky continues to invest in its mental health system to this day. In response to the state’s high rate of depression, Kentucky has expanded its mental health provider network and developed a network of integrated health clinics. It has recently expanded its crisis response services through new laws and grants. It also places fewer restrictions on access to public mental health services than many other states.
Kentucky's Investment in Its Mental Health System Pays Off
People who do seek treatment for depression or other mental health conditions in Kentucky fare pretty well—according to The Lexington Herald Leader, Kentucky’s ratio of mental health providers to citizens is nearly twice the national average and people who receive treatment in Kentucky report outcomes that are better than the national average.
Public mental health services in Kentucky are managed on the state level by the Division of Behavioral Health within the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities.
Services are provided by a network of 14 community mental health centers. Each CMHC serves a multi-county region and has its own mental health crisis line and local mental health clinics. Most CMHCs have at least one clinic for each county they serve, but this varies from region to region.
Each CMHC decides how its program works, and which services are available and where and how they’re delivered varies from program to program. But no matter how your CMHC works, the best way to learn more is to call their main number or crisis hotline. They know how the system works and will help you get where you need to go.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only 46 percent of people in Kentucky who have mental health conditions get treatment for them. Many of them qualify for public mental health services but don’t know about them.
You can make a difference by reaching out and connecting with local mental health resources to get the care you need. If you’re not sure whether you qualify for Kentucky state mental health services, call your local CMHC or crisis line. You may find out you can get mental health services through your local program or that there’s another affordable option nearby.
The most important thing is to get started—the help you need may be only a call or click away.