The demand for mental health services, across the country and across the Commonwealth, is at an all-time high. We are experiencing unprecedented call volume and seeing increased wait times for referrals. We are working as fast as we can to provide care to our callers, while also maintaining a high level of service. We appreciate your patience during this time.

Learn more about When and Where to Seek Help. We are not an emergency service. If you or the person you’re seeking to assist requires a crisis response to meet immediate safety needs, please call 911, go to your local emergency room, or find your local Emergency Service Program by calling 877-382-1609.

Accessing the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH)

The Department of Mental Health, as the State Mental Health Authority, assures and provides access to services and supports to meet the mental health needs of individuals of all ages; enabling them to live, work and participate in their communities. Visit their website for more information.


Eligibility Criteria

The Department of Mental Health (DMH) provides services for disabled persons who meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • An adult must have a mental illness that:
    • includes a substantial disorder of thought, mood, perception, which grossly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality or the ability to meet the ordinary demands of life; and
    • is the primary cause of a functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits the performance of one or more major life activities, and is expected to do so in the succeeding year;
    • meets diagnostic criteria specified within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM-5), which indicates that the individual has a serious, long term mental illness that is not based on symptoms primarily caused by:
      • developmental disorders usually first diagnosed in infancy, childhood or adolescence, such as mental retardation or pervasive developmental disorders;
      • cognitive disorders, including delirium, dementia or amnesia;
      • mental disorders due to a general medical condition not elsewhere classified;
      • substance-related disorders
  • A child or adolescent must be younger than 19 years old at the time of application and have a serious emotional disturbance that:
    • has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year
    • has resulted in functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits the child's adolescent’s role or functioning in family, school or community activities; 
    • meets diagnostic criteria specified within the DSM-5 but is not solely within one or more of the following categories:
      • developmental disorders usually first diagnosed in infancy, childhood or adolescence, such as mental retardation or pervasive developmental disorders;
      • cognitive disorders, including delirium, dementia or amnesia;
      • mental disorders due to a general medical condition not elsewhere classified; or d. substance-related disorders.

Applying for Services

To apply for services:

  • Complete a DMH application, which can be downloaded here.
  • Open and print the appropriate service application. There are applications for children and adults in multiple languages. DMH provides translation services, as needed.
  • Print several of the two way release forms for all past and current providers i.e. therapist, psychiatrist, hospitalizations, school contact, etc.
  • Send the application to the DMH Area or Site Office that corresponds to where the applicant currently resides: Where to Send Your Application.

PLEASE NOTE: The process will be expedited if you send copies of any clinical reports, consultations, psychological testing, neuropsychological testing, academic testing, etc. with the eligibility application.

Once an application is received, DMH will contact the applicant or their parent/guardian within 7 days to acknowledge receipt of the applcation. An application is considered completed when DMH believes there is sufficient information included to evaluate the application.

  • A DMH Clinical Service Authorization Specialist may request a face-to-face meeting with the applicant to further discuss and assess the needs of the applicant. For child applicants, face-to-face meetings may be requested with the parent/guardian.
  • Unless the child or adult application is hospitalized at the time the application is made, DMH will determine whether the applicant meets clinical criteria within 20 days of receipt of the completed application. If the application meets clinical criteria, DMH will determine whether the applicant will receive DMH services within 20 days.
  • All clinician decisions will be made within 90 days.

Once Services are Approved

The Area Director or designee will notify the applicant or parent/guardian that the applicant is approved for DMH service(s) and is authorized to receive such services. The notice will identify which DMH services are needed and have available capacity, and will provide contact information for the applicant to access the authorized service(s).

Important points to remember when accessing DMH services:

  • Access to services depends on the availability of the particular service.
  • Many services have waitlists.
  • Short term services that address immediate needs may be provided while an eligibility application is pending.
  • Individuals are prioritized for services based on the urgency of their need.
  • Assignment of a case manager is not a prerequisite for receipt of any DMH services.
  • All services are voluntary.

DMH Services

Adolescent Day Treatment

Lifeskills Center in Needham provides day services to adolescents who are experiencing crises which may have disrupted school and home life.

After-School Program

Choices is an after-school program for latency age children at the Watertown Boys and Girls Club three days per week.

Case Management

A case manager will oversee assisting families in accessing benefits (Mass. Health, Social Security, Food Stamps) and make referrals for community and DMH funded services.

Community Based Flexible Supports

Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) is the cornerstone of the Department's community mental health system for adults. CBFS services provides rehabilitative interventions and supports in partnership with clients and their families to promote and facilitate recovery. Services include interventions and supports that manage psychiatric symptoms in the community, restore or maintain independent living in the community, restore or maintain daily living skills, promote wellness and the management of medical conditions and assist clients to restore or maintain and use their strengths and skills to undertake employment. 

Home based services for 3–6 months

Intensive in-home support and intervention for families for 3–6 months.

Long-term Residential

Residential therapeutic program for children and adolescents who can not live at home and require a therapeutic school program in addition.

Project Connect

A strength-based wraparound program designed to support families with emotionally disturbed children/adolescents to receive additional supports at home and in their community.

Short-term Residential

Community Intervention Program in Arlington provides a 45-day diagnostic program for adolescents in crisis who can not function at home.

Supported Education

A counselor will meet with young adults who are pursuing college and assist them with their search and advocate with colleges for accommodations as needed.

Young Adult Group Home

A group home for young adults ages 18–25 to develop independent living skills.

Young Adult Vocational Program

A day program to assist young adults age 16–25 in developing vocational training and employment.