The Washington Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens has doubled its staff from two to four and is planning to add another referral specialist during the school year. The move comes in response to high and growing demand for the free, telephone-based referral service that officially launched in April. Referrals have jumped from 67 in April to 108 in June.

The service is designed for children and teens 17 and younger from across Washington, connecting families with evidence-supported outpatient mental health services in the community. Families receive a custom referral to meet their individual location, insurance and the mental health needs of their child. Referral specialists call local mental health providers to verify their availability before making a referral to the family and then coach the family to contact the provider as soon as possible to secure the appointment. More than half of all families (58%) who responded to a post-referral survey reported success in getting their child in to see a mental health specialist.

The Washington Healthcare Authority funds the referral service, and Seattle Children’s operates it. It works closely with the existing Partnership Access Line (PAL) mental health consult line at Seattle Children’s.

How to Access Washington’s Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens

  • Families can call 833-303-5437, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time, to connect with a referral specialist.
  • The referral specialist will ask for information, including the child’s mental health needs, location and health insurance plan.
  • A referral specialist will call and email the family with information on one or two providers or agencies that meet their needs and have openings as soon as possible. The wait time is currently about one month. A streamlined work process will reduce wait times by the beginning of September.
  • A few weeks after providing the referrals, a referral specialist will contact the family to see if they were able to make an appointment and ask if additional resources are needed.
  • If no appointment has been made, the referral specialist will try to address any barriers or link the family to another provider.

The Washington Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens works closely with the existing PAL mental health consult line for primary care physicians, also at Seattle Children’s. Primary care providers, as part of a PAL consultation call, can also request their patient be connected with mental health providers in their local area. Providers will be asked about their patient’s needs, location and health insurance plan, after which a referral specialist will follow up directly with the family to complete the intake process.

Visit the Washington Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens. Information specifically for primary care providers is available here.