If your teen’s primary care doctor or mental health care doctor has recommended a treatment center, you might be feeling very overwhelmed. Is the situation an emergency, or can you think about it for a few days? How can you choose the correct facility for your child? What will happen to him or her while in treatment and beyond? These are all very normal concerns for any parent to have. Your teen’s doctor will likely give you some recommendations when it comes to choose a facility, but the ultimate decision is yours to make. Here are some questions you might ask when searching for a teen treatment facility for your child.
Questions to Ask the Referring Doctor
Before you search for the right teen treatment facility for your child, there are some questions that you should ask the referring doctor to be sure you understand which services your child needs. You’ll want to know:
- What is the proposed treatment is, how long it should take, and what types of improvements can I expect to see?
- What are the alternatives are, if any, and what are the specifics of how long those should take and what improvements are likely?
- What type of program does my teen need? Is inpatient treatment necessary? What types of therapy are necessary, recommended, and not recommended?
- Will the referring doctor be involved in the care at all?
Once you’re comfortable with the details of why your teen needs treatment and what it will likely entail, it’s time to find out some of the nitty-gritty details of how you will accomplish this.
Questions to Ask the Health Insurance Company
If your teen already has health insurance that covers mental health care, that’s where you should start to find out if there are participating providers in your area and what your out-of-pocket expenses might be. If he or she does not have mental health coverage, ask the referring doctor’s staff for information on what mental health care for minors might be covered through Medicaid or your state’s insurance plan for uninsured or underinsured children. Once you know which insurance company to call, you can ask:
- Is there a deductible that must be paid before the insurance benefits will begin? If so, how much is it? Has any of it been met for this year?
- Which treatment facilities, if any, participate with the plan? If we choose another provider, will any benefits be paid?
- What percentage of the cost will be covered by the insurance company, and what percentage will be out-of-pocket?
- What is the phone number and address for mental health claims?
- Is pre-authorization needed?
Getting the insurance information ahead of time can save you money and stress later. Your teen treatment facility will be double-checking on all insurance coverage, but it’s very helpful if you already know what’s covered and what’s not. If you are having your child admitted on an emergency basis, you might not have time to call your insurance company, and that’s okay; there should be a social worker or other staff member at the facility who can walk you through verifying your coverage.
Questions to Ask the Teen Treatment Facility
Once you are clear on the details of what type of treatment center you need and how your teen’s health insurance will work, it’s time to start calling one or more facilities to ask the questions you need to in order to make a good decision. Here are some to consider:
- Is this program specifically for teens? What age people will be in the same unit or section as my child? Are there people of other ages being treated at the same facility, and if so, are they allowed to co-mingle?
- Is the hospital or program accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)?
- What is the daily or weekly routine like? What will my teen spend his or her days doing? How often will he or she see doctors and attend therapy sessions? What types of therapy are offered?
- How can my teen keep up with school? What is the process for making sure that happens?
- Can my child stay in touch with friends? How can this be arranged?
- What involvement will the rest of the family have? How often can I visit? What types of decisions can I make or be asked to make?
- Is there private or group therapy offered for parents and siblings?
- What would happen if we could not pay for the services any longer or if the insurance denies a claim? Are there any programs in place for this situation?
- What is included in the fee?
- What types of support do you offer after the inpatient treatment phase is over? What will be the follow-up care offered, if any?
- Who will be prescribing medications? What types of medication might my teen need? Who will decide when to try new medications or discontinue drugs that aren’t working or needed?
- What can I do to support my child during and after treatment?
Remember that you don’t have to ask all of these questions at once or during one conversation. You can ask what’s most important to you now, then find out other answers later, either before or after treatment has begun. You’ll also want to visit the facility, so some questions can be answered then.
Visiting the Facility
If you aren’t having your teen admitted to the teen treatment facility during an emergency and you live close by, you might have the option to visit the facility before your child is actually admitted. This is a great time to look around, see the various areas that you are allowed into, and ask any questions that you weren’t able to ask over the phone. Go over the list above and see if there’s anything you would like to ask. Bring something that you can use to take notes on the answers to help you remember for later.
Don’t Forget to Let Your Teen Ask Questions
It’s natural that your child will have questions of his or her own. While they probably won’t care much about insurance coverage, they’ll likely want to know how long treatment will take, if they can stay in touch with their friends, and what to expect, in general. Encourage him or her to come up with a list of questions that you can ask when you call or that they can ask in person. You might also leave the room so that your teen can ask questions in private, without you there.
Deciding on a teen treatment facility can seem like an overwhelming task, but you will likely find one that offers what you and your teen are looking for. There are usually staff members who can walk you through the process of figuring out your insurance and handling the logistics of admission and follow-up care; don’t be afraid to rely on these helpful people to help you through what is likely a difficult time for your family.