AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Means Report’s Mental health matters because you matter series concludes with a look at the resources available for mental health treatment. Whether you have insurance or not, there is help available.
Brad Means: We wanna sort of wrap up the whole Mental Health Awareness Month here on “The Means Report” by telling you about the resources that are available and how you can access them. And for that, we welcome back Dr. Vaughn McCall who chairs the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior, excuse me, at MCG at AU. So Doctor, let’s look at what’s out there and really, you know, so many people watch “The Means Report” and say, “Well that sounds good. That treatment’s nice, but I can’t afford it.” What’s out there when it comes to folks who might not have the means or the insurance to access the kind of care we’ve been describing?
Dr. Vaughn McCall: Thanks, Brad, for having me back.
Brad Means: We appreciate you.
Dr. Vaughn McCall: I understand the confusion and concern that folks may feel in accessing mental health services. The good news is, is that there are quite a few to choose from. The bad news is we don’t yet have a 1-800-AUGUSTA mental health phone number to call.
Brad Means: Right, I wish we did.
Dr. Vaughn McCall: I wish we did, too. So at the moment, the navigation requires doing a little bit of homework to decide which way to orient yourself. And let’s review some of the choices. For folks that are active military and their dependents, they’re most likely gonna start at Eisenhower Hospital at the Fort Gordon. For folks who are veterans, they may very well decide to seek care at the VA hospital, Charlie Norwood, right? Importantly, for people who are in emergency psychiatry situations, such as they’re psychotic, suicidal, homicidal, they probably should just go straight to the emergency room and all of our local area emergency rooms are prepared to handle that very first level of crisis management. Probably they won’t receive comprehensive mental healthcare there,
Brad Means: Right.
Dr. Vaughn McCall: but if you’re not sure what to do it’s always best to go to the emergency room if you or your family suspect you’re in crisis. If you’re thinking about actual hospitalization in the area, we’ve got a few choices beyond Eisenhower and Charlie Norwood VA. We’ve got the Lighthouse, which is here in Augusta. And then we have Aurora Pavilion just across the river in Aiken, South Carolina.
Brad Means: Does insurance typically pay for things like that? They seem so expensive unless you have the means to walk in the door.
Dr. Vaughn McCall: Insurance typically does. Pre-authorization is often required if it’s not an emergency. Now in most cases, in emergency situations, don’t bother calling your insurance company. Just go.
Brad Means: Just go.
Dr. Vaughn McCall: Just go.
Brad Means: And does that kind of get the ball rolling?
Dr. Vaughn McCall: That gets the ball rolling. And what’s likely to happen is if you don’t know where to start, at least the emergency room if you’re in a crisis will point you
Brad Means: Right.
Dr. Vaughn McCall: in the correct direction.
Brad Means: I was gonna ask about indigent care, and you were probably going to get to that anyway, but when it comes to mental health issues, where can we seek indigent care?
Dr. Vaughn McCall: So, the good news is that while there are many medical specialties where the State of Georgia doesn’t really support directly, let’s say indigent, I’ll just pick plastic surgery, for example.
Brad Means: Right.
Dr. Vaughn McCall: The state does support indigent mental healthcare. So there are a few places you can go as an outpatient. The ones that come immediately to mind are Serenity, Serenity Behavioral Health, and also AmericanWork. These places will accept Medicaid. They’ll accept people who are totally uninsured. And as far as the Medical College of Georgia campus goes, while we have a regular mental health clinic that accepts all types of insurance, we also have a free mental health clinic that meets periodically. And I think we’re gonna share that information maybe later during our conversation.
Brad Means: Yeah.
Dr. Vaughn McCall: And so, there really is no reason for folks of limited means to feel like they have no options. There are options.
Brad Means: Okay, that’s encouraging. Well, what about confidentiality? Do I have to tell my employer if I’m getting mental healthcare or if I’m enrolling or being admitted to one of the facilities you mentioned?
Dr. Vaughn McCall: There’s no requirement that you do that. Now, of course, if you’re absent from work your employer may require some sort of explanation. Just take something simple like coming for a mental health office visit as an outpatient, what would you do if your employer asked for you to explain your sick time away from work?
Brad Means: Right.
Dr. Vaughn McCall: I think a fair thing to do, it would be ask your doctor or the clinic simply to say that, you know, Jane or Joe appeared in front of, say Dr. McCall today with no further explanation of what the need was or what the treatment was.
Brad Means: I asked you this last time, I wanna ask you again. Can we commit someone for treatment for mental health issues, or in most cases, must it be voluntary?
Dr. Vaughn McCall: We do. I mean, it’s one of the unfortunate things that we have to do sometimes. It can be an involuntary commitment for mental health treatment. It can be initiated by anybody that has firsthand knowledge of the designated patient. It really should not be secondhand information. You should have some personal knowledge of why you think this person is mentally ill and dangerous to either themselves or others. Or as Dr. Byrd was talking about with addictions, that they have an addiction problem and are dangerous to themselves or others. Outside of people with direct firsthand knowledge like the family, the police and other law enforcement agents can do the same.
Brad Means: Have you seen people who are impacted in, from a mental health standpoint, by the headlines? What I mean by that is the social issues that we see dominating the news, the political scene that’s out there currently. Have you seen that bring patients through your door?
Dr. Vaughn McCall: Occasionally. The public information phenomenon that gives me the most pause is copycat suicides as much as anything else. And sometimes you’ll see a flurry of suicides one after another, for example, in a high school. So when we talk about the headlines that’s what kind of gets my heart beating fast. We have to report these things because they’re factual, but the information needs to be presented, especially to our younger audience in a way that doesn’t glamorize it or make it seem like a reasonable thing to do.
Brad Means: Yeah, and I think and maybe we’ll close with this. I really appreciate what you said last time. Young people, when it comes to suicide, don’t understand the permanence of it, correct?
Dr. Vaughn McCall: They don’t. And just to give our audience a sense of the importance of suicide in young people, I think we’re all drawn, for example, to the tragedy of young people that are surviving and getting treatment for cancer. But the truth of the matter is when you look at the most common causes of death of people between the ages of 15 and 30, suicide is number two behind accident. It’s ahead of cancer. And yet, we don’t give suicide the attention that it deserves in our young people.
Brad Means: Well, I hope that the words that you just spoke will change that and I certainly hope that your appearance both today and the last time will help as well. Dr. McCall, thanks for everything you do.
Dr. Vaughn McCall: Thanks, Brad. Always glad to be here.
Brad Means: I appreciate it so much. Dr. Vaughn McCall, MCG at AU. He and his team are doing awesome work.