Getting Professional Help

In Virginia, mental health services for children are provided through a variety of public and private agencies and providers that are only loosely coordinated. Navigating this patchwork of services can be challenging for families.

This section of the website provides an overview of how services are provided in Virginia and takes a look at the issues of insurance and paying for services. We hope this information will help you understand your options for obtaining care.

Mental health services available through public entities

Private mental health services

Children's health insurance (FAMIS, FAMIS Plus) 

Medicaid waiver for children's mental health

Free and low-cost health resources

Online provider databases

Learn about the professionals who provide mental health care for children here.


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Service provider databases:

2-1-1 Virginia

Licensed Provider Search System (Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services)

Practitioner Information (Virginia Board of Medicine)

Search for Providers (Virginia Medicaid)


Databases available through private insurance companies:

Aetna -- DocFind

Anthem -- Provider Finder

OptimaHealth -- Find a Provider

UnitedHealthCare -- Clinician Search

These links are provided as a convenience and do not constitute approval or endorsement of any provider by the Children's Mental Health Resource Center.


Mental health services available through public entities
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Some mental health services in Virginia are provided directly through public agencies (e.g., state hospitals, community mental health centers, public schools). Public services are meant to meet the needs of the community at large. When payment is required, payment options tend to be flexible and geared to what a family can afford.


Community Services Boards (CSBs) (Back to top)

In Virginia, the main entry point into the public system of mental health care is through the Community Services Board (CSBs). There are 40 CSBs around the state that provide care for individuals with mental health problems, intellectual disabilities, and substance use disorders. CSBs serve families who do not have insurance, those enrolled in public insurance programs (e.g., Medicaid, FAMIS), as well as those who have private insurance.

Most CSBs provide the following services:

  • Emergency/crisis services (provided by all CSBs, 24 hours a day/7 days a week)
  • Outpatient therapy   
  • Medication management
  • Therapeutic day treatment  
  • Case management
  • Family services
  • Prevention and early intervention services

 Children can be referred by CSBs and the juvenile court to the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents, the state's mental health facility for children and adolescents in Staunton, Virginia.

Parents can contact their CSB directly to request an appointment. To locate the CSB nearest you, click here.

For more information about CSBs, visit the website of the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards.

Comprehensive Services Act for At-Risk Youth and Families (CSA) (Back to top)

In 1993, Virginia passed legislation that provides for the pooling of public funds used to purchase services for high risk youth. The purpose of the act is to provide high quality, child centered, family focused, cost-effective services to high risk youth and their families. 

CSA funds are provided to localities with a required state/local match and managed by local interagency teams. The teams decide how to use CSA funds to provide services for eligible youth and their families.

CSA legislation mandates services for certain populations -- children involved in the foster care system (or at risk of becoming involved), and children with special education needs that cannot be served effectively in their public schools. Other "non-mandated" populations may receive services through CSA based on available funding.

Each locality in Virginia has its own procedures for referral to CSA. Contact your local CSA coordinator to find out about this process.

Services under CSA may be available to a child who meets at least one of the following descriptions:

  • Has serious emotional or behavioral problems
  • May need care or resources beyond normal agency services
  • Needs special education through a private school program
  • Receives foster care services
  • Receives services to prevent foster care placements, including parental agreements
  • Is under supervision of the juvenile and domestic relations court, or domestic relations court
  • Is a ward of the Department of Juvenile Justice

Examples of services that may be provided include:

  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Respite care
  • Psychological evaluations transportation services
  • Home-based therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Parent training
  • Therapeutic foster care
  • Job coaching
  • After school care
  • Recreation
  • Housing assistance

CSA services are community-based whenever possible. They may be residential or non-residential, and they may be provided by public or private entities.

Once a child has been referred for services under CSA, the family meets with their local Family Assessment and Planning Team (FAPT). The team assesses the strengths and needs of the child and family and develops a plan for services that are necessary to meet their needs. The plan of care is called the Individual Family Services Plan (IFSP).

Visit the CSA website for a "Parent's Guide to CSA" and answers to FAQs.  Information is also available from the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC).


Public School Services (Back to top)

Many children in Virginia receive mental health services through their public school. These services are provided either directly by the school or district, or through community-based organizations with which the school or district has a formal arrangement.

It is important for families to keep in mind that the goal of schools is to provide families and children a “least restrictive” environment when specialized services are needed to assist a child who may be experiencing difficulty. Least restrictive can best be described as the minimal amount of specialized service and greatest amount of time interacting and learning in the typical general education classroom with typical school peers.

Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act

When a student has a particular medically-related condition, the school can provide a 504 plan that will include accommodations to the student. This can include limited physical activities for a student with asthma, accommodations for time and testing for a student with ADHD, or a variety of other measures.

Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA)

Some students with disabilities require specialized instruction. The IDEA requires that schools follow specific procedures to meet the educational needs of children with disabilities.

Parents can request an evaluation of their child to determine his or her need for special education and/or related services. The evaluation may include psychological and educational testing, a speech and language evaluation, occupational therapy assessment and a behavioral analysis.

If it is determined that a child needs special education services, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is formulated by the school and family to address the child's unique needs. Special education and related services must be provided at no cost to parents. Related services are supportive services which are necessary for a student to benefit from special education.  

If a child's problems are so severe that they cannot be addressed in a regular school setting, the student may be served in a day treatment program or a residential treatment program. These services are often provided through the Comprehensive Services Act for At-Risk Youth and Families (CSA).  Read about CSA here.

For an overview of the special education process, download the powerpoint at the website of the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC). Another resource is the Parent's Guide to Special Education published by the Virginia Department of Education.

Some school divisions in Virginia operate Parent Resource Centers for parents and guardians of children receiving special education services. These centers offer training, information and assistance, free of charge. For a list of Parent Resource Centers in Virginia, click here.


Private mental health services (Back to top)

Private mental health services are provided by private individuals or groups. These include outpatient and inpatient services. Access to these services may be restricted based on an individual’s insurance or ability to pay.

If you have health insurance or can pay out of pocket, you can purchase services directly from a private therapist, psychiatrist, hospital, community mental health center, or inpatient facility.

Private insurance companies may require their customers to seek services from a provider in their network. You can locate an approved provider either by calling your insurance company or going to their website.

Review your insurance identification card which may include a special telephone number for mental health services. Call this number to obtain information on your insurance coverage and any authorization or referral requirements. Your company may contract with a managed behavioral healthcare vendor to manage your mental health services. Their information may be provided on your insurance card or you may have been given a separate identification card for these services.

Insurance often does not pay the full cost of mental health services and you may need to pay a co-pay. There may also be restrictions on the mental health services covered. For instance, some policies may have a limit on the number of outpatient therapy sessions covered. With the passage of mental health parity legislation, however, most policies have removed any visit or inpatient day limitations. Most policies require that mental health services meet established medical necessity criteria and may require prior approval.

If your coverage has reached its limit or you have no insurance, you may be able to purchase services on a sliding fee scale from some providers.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry publishes a Fact Sheet on Understanding Your Mental Health Insurance.

Information on health insurance in Virginia, including a list of companies that offer individual coverage, is available through the Virginia Bureau of Insurance.


Children's health insurance (FAMIS and FAMIS Plus) (Back to top)

Health insurance can be critical to obtaining mental health services. 

FAMIS and FAMIS Plus are two programs in Virginia that help families provide health insurance for their children. FAMIS stands for Family Access to Medical Insurance Security Plan.

FAMIS provides low-cost health insurance for children in families that do not have private insurance but earn too much to be eligible for FAMIS Plus (Virginia's name for children's Medicaid). FAMIS Plus provides coverage for children in families with low or no income.

Visit the FAMIS website to learn more about these programs, and how to apply.

Mental health care is covered by both FAMIS and FAMIS Plus. FAMIS Plus may also cover transportation and translation services.

Families enrolled in these programs can call the Managed Care Organization (MCO) that they have chosen to deliver their health services to find out about available services.

There are five participating MCO's:

  • CareNet 1-800-279-1878
  • Optima 1-800-881-2166
  • Anthem 1-800-901-0020
  • VA Premier 1-800-289-4970 (Richmond); 1-800-828-7953 (Tidewater); 1-888-338-4579 (Roanoke)
  • Amerigroup 1-800-600-4441

Families who receive their health services through the fee-for-service program may call the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services' Recipient Helpline: 1-804-786-6145.


Medicaid waiver for children's mental health (Back to top)

Some children in Virginia are eligible for services through the state's Children's Mental Health Program. Virginia implemented the program in 2008 after receiving a demonstration grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The program is designed to provide a range of community-based services to children and youth with serious mental health issues who would otherwise be in residential psychiatric treatment facilities. A number of services are available to children enrolled in the waiver program, but relatively few children have been served by the program to date.

To learn more about the program, click here.

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Information on free or low-cost health services in the Richmond area

Find a Free Clinic (Virginia Association of Free Clinics)

Virginia Community Health Care Association

Bon Secours Care-A-Van (Check the Care-A-Van schedule on right side of webpage.)



Date Reviewed: March 22, 2012