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What’s the Difference Between Public and Private Behavioral Health Care?

by | Jan 15, 2024 | Behavioral Health, Infographic

Forward, Together with western tidewater community services board

Finding the right health care isn’t always easy. That’s especially true when you’re looking for behavioral health care, like help with substance abuse or mental health challenges. Where do you even begin?

Well, the first question to ask yourself is which type of health care is the best choice for you: private or public?

What Is Private Health Care?

You’re probably familiar with private health care. If you grew up going to a family doctor or currently have a primary care provider, they’re likely a private health care provider. That means that they either have their own private practice or work in a hospital or practice with other doctors.

Private health care providers typically accept insurance or out-of-pocket payments. Private health care providers are not required to accept public health insurance like Medicare or Medicaid, and most don’t.

What Is Public Health Care?

Public health care refers to health services that are publicly funded, usually by state or federal government. Public health services are typically offered on a sliding scale, meaning that patients pay what they can afford. Public health providers also usually accept public health insurance like Medicare and Medicaid. 

Public health care exists to make healthcare more equal and accessible. The goal is to ensure that all people receive care, even if they don’t have insurance or can’t pay everything out-of-pocket.

Private Health Care vs. Public Health Care 

The main takeaway is this: a public health service is a “service which belongs to the state.” A private health service is provided by “individuals and/or institutions not administered by the state.”

What Are Community Services Boards (CSBs)?

Most state governments offer physical and/or mental health services to citizens for no cost and/or lower costs. This is a form of public health. In Virginia and a few other states, behavioral health care (services related to mental health, substance abuse and developmental disorders) is provided via regional community services boards (CSBs). CSBs offer “pre-admission screening services 24 hours per day, seven days per week.”

41 CSBs in Virginia provide programs and services that:

  • Ensure the growth and development of infants who are or at risk of developmental disabilities, birth to age three, as well as supporting their families.
  • Enable children and youth with behavioral health and developmental disability service needs to remain in their homes, schools and communities.
  • Respond to psychiatric emergencies, 24 hours a day.
  • Promote resiliency in youth and communities through prevention and education activities.
  • Meet the residential, outpatient, employment, and day support service needs of individuals with severe mental illness.
  • Offer opportunities for occupational and residential independence for individuals with developmental disability.
  • Effectively treat individuals with substance use disorders.
  • Support the efforts of schools, Departments of Social Services, law enforcement agencies and courts in a coordinated manner.
  • Prevent further incidence of behavioral health and developmental disability service needs. 
  • Support the care of older adults with behavioral health and developmental disability service needs and their families.
  • Assist families in caring for members with behavioral health and developmental disability service needs.

Related: Get Help Before It Becomes a Crisis – Mental Illness Preventative Care

The Benefits of Using Public Behavioral Health Care Services for Mental Health and/or Substance Abuse Recovery

Reduced Cost 

Reduced cost is probably the biggest benefit of using public behavioral health care services. Public health care organizations like CSBs accept public health insurance like Medicaid and Medicare. They also will work with clients paying out-of-pocket to get them the services they need at a cost they can afford.

Related: Barriers To Getting Mental Health Help – And How to Counter Them

Greater Accessibility to Mental Health Services

There’s a huge problem with accessibility to health care in the U.S. Many people live in rural areas and have to travel a town or two over to get care. Many times, not owning a car or a lack of public transportation in the area will keep people from getting the care they need. 

Community-Focused Health Care 

CSBs provide community-focused care. These organizations have been created to provide quality, non-biased care to all community members, whether or not they can afford it. This means a better, less cost-prohibitive, and more authentic experience for clients.

Public Behavioral Health Care Services in Virginia for Mental Health and/or Substance Abuse Recovery

You can always turn to your local CSB for help with behavioral health. In Franklin, Suffolk and the counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton, Western Tidewater Community Services Board is your single point-of-entry for access to mental health services, developmental disabilities support, and substance abuse services – but we like to think that we’re so much more. We’re your community of hope and your local authority on behavioral health.

Ready to change your life? Make an appointment online for same-day access or give us a call at 757-758-5106.

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