Six Resources for Young Adults with Special Needs

The transition to adulthood can be lengthy and difficult for all young adults—not just those with mental health disabilities. As our society has become more complex, the adult milestones of completing high school and/or starting college, finding a job that pays a living wage, and leaving the family home often are not achieved until age 30 or later. For young adults with mental health disabilities, the transition to adulthood can be longer and more difficult. This blog post offers several key resources to help you navigate this critical time in your child’s life.

1. During High School

For students with IEPs or 504 plans, schools should start providing special supports as early as age 16, including a referral to the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS). Unfortunately, available services aren’t always as helpful as would be hoped. It is important that families understand how the process is supposed to go, and be prepared to advocate for the support that their child actually needs. Here we highlight your rights and a few other things that you should know about the last years of high school and planning the transition:

2. Starting College

If your child is going to community college or a university, an IEP plan will not follow them, but they can ask for accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. As they are looking at colleges, they may want to contact the student support services office in advance and find out the requirements to access accommodations.

3. Privacy Issues in Health Care

When a child turns 18, providers will rarely share information with parents or caregivers, regardless of whether or not your child lives with you or you are paying for their care. In order to get information and inclusion in your young adult’s mental health care, a HIPAA release is required. If your child wants to keep certain information private, they can specify what information they will allow to be shared. Encourage your child to sign a HIPAA release.

4. Advance Directives for Health Care Decisions

Guardianship is an extreme measure and rarely granted when the individual concerned has primarily a mental health disorder. Instead, consider drafting an advance directive for mental health treatment with your child. An advance directive allows a person to decide who they want to make health care decisions for them, especially in the event that they are unable to do so themselves. It can also be used to state what kinds of treatment a person wants or does not want. An advance directive can either name a health care agent, or provide health care instructions, or do both. You do not need an attorney to draw up an advance directive. For more information go to this website.

5. Health Care Insurance

If your child is on your private insurance, they can remain covered by your policy until age 26. You may want to consider having them apply for Maryland Medicaid if they make under $16,600/year (as a family of 1). The advantage of being on Medicaid is that it provides your child with access to programs offered through the Public Behavioral Health System, which are not covered by private insurance. To apply for Maryland Medicaid go to the Maryland Health Connection website. For information call 855-642-8572.

6. Mental Health Treatment

Many jurisdictions across the state offer programs for transition-age youth that are available through the Public Mental Health System. These programs require the youth to have Maryland Medicaid. These offer a range of services from Residential Rehabilitation Programs (which usually have waiting lists) to Supported Employment Programs to Psychiatric Rehabilitation Programs. Different jurisdictions have different programs available for transition-age youth and different age requirements. Most programs for young adults require that the young person have one of the following diagnoses: a psychotic disorder (Schizophrenia Disorder, Delusional Disorder), a major mood disorder (Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder), or a major anxiety disorder (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Social Phobia). To see if there are transition-age youth programs in your jurisdiction, check with your local Core Service Agency/Local Behavioral Health Authority.

Knowing your rights and your young person’s options will pave the way for a smoother transition into adulthood.