Navigating the health care system

Navigating the health care system is essential for mental health treatment

With one in four adults in America expected to experience a mental health or substance abuse disorder each year, it is crucial to navigate the health care system to receive the care that you or a loved one may need.

That’s why the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council (CBHC), and Mental Health Colorado have joined together to offer these tips for understanding mental health needs and navigating Colorado’s mental health care system.

Here is a quick checklist for assessing one’s needs and accessing health care support:

  1. Determine whether you or a loved one needs help. Some signs you or a loved one may want to speak to a health professional include: confused thinking, prolonged sadness or irritability, feelings of extreme highs and lows, excessive fears or worries, social withdrawal, dramatic changes in eating or sleeping, strong feelings of anger, delusions, or suicidal thoughts. If in doubt, consider seeking help. Free online screening tools for common mental health conditions are available through the Mental Health America website:
  2. Determine whether your child needs help. Warning signs of mental illness can include extreme or strange behavior for the age and gender of the child such as aggressive, withdrawn, or hyper behavior or sudden, difficult-to-explain changes in behavior like a steep drop in grades.
  3. Tap into resources to find help. There are many national hotlines to call if you need to speak with someone immediately. The National Suicide Prevention lifeline is 800-273-TALK (8255). For general mental health questions, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a good place to start. You can reach them at 877-SAMHSA7 (877-726-4727) or visit In Colorado, you can call the Colorado Crisis and Support Line – 844-493-TALK (8255) – to speak to a trained professional. It’s confidential and available 24/7.
  4. Use your existing health insurance. Your insurance company can provide a list of providers in your plan. Your primary care doctor may also be able to refer you to a mental health specialist.
  5. If you are uninsured, there are resources to help. Start with your community mental health center. You can find the mental health centers in your region of the state through the CBHC member regions map. SAMHSA provides a treatment locator to help you find services in your area. Other places to look include community health centers, university clinics, and, a Colorado resource for information and services on prevention, treatment, and recovery from substance use and mental health conditions.