For people struggling with a mental illness, a number of financial aid resources are available from the Federal Government, and from the State.  State aid can be administered by State Agencies, or by Counties (in our area, this is Santa Clara County).  NAMI-SCC provides general information on these programs, and who to contact to determine whether you qualify for such financial assistance.

The following document summarizes the below mentioned financial aid programs, and provides details such as qualifications, income limits, amount of benefits, and program name and web addresses: Summary of Federal and State Benefits ProgramsFor more general information about disability benefits available in California, see the Disability Benefits 101 web site. For information about inclusive employment opportunities and other resources for people with disabilities, see Disability Resources on www.disability.gov.

Federal Financial Aid Programs

Federal financial aid programs are managed by the United States Social Security Administration (SSA), an independent agency of the United States federal government that administers Social Security, a social insurance program consisting of retirement, survivors’ benefits, and disability. Federal programs that assist people with a mental illness related disability are SSI and SSDI.

SSDI pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are both disabled and “insured” meaning that you worked for a long enough time period and have paid Social Security taxes out of  your employment income.

SSI is a program run by Social Security that pays monthly checks to the elderly, the blind and people with disabilities (including serious mental illnesses) who cannot work, don’t own much and/or who don’t have much income. If you get SSI, you usually get food stamps and Medicaid too. Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California) helps pay doctor and hospital bills.
While eligibility for Social Security disability is based on prior work history, SSI disability payments are made on the basis of financial need.

Applying for SSI and SSDI can be difficult due to how long a claim can take and the high chance of being denied.  For more information and tips on obtaining SSI or SSDI, see our Applying for SSI/SSDI page.  To apply immediately:

  • Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, toll-free from 7AM to 7PM, Monday to Friday: ,  If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call us at TTY 1-800-325-0778.
  • Apply online with Social Security
  • Visit your local Social Security office. (Call first to make an appointment.)

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, who have received Social Security Disability benefits for 24 months. People who receive Medi-Cal as a result of a disabling condition may qualify for Medicare after a two-year waiting period.

Some people with mental illness have both Medicare and Medi-Cal (known as a dually eligible beneficiary).  Once granted Medi-Cal, someone with a mental disability and an eligible work history can apply for Medicare after a two-year waiting period. The state Medi-Cal program and the federal Medicare program have partnered to start a new project to improve care for people who are dually eligible for both insurance programs: the Coordinated Care Initiative (CCI), which is currently operating in seven counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. Under CCI, a beneficiary’s medical, behavioral health, long-term institutional, and home-and community-based services are combined under one plan, often managed by a Care Coordinator (like a case manager). Contact the Cal MediConnect Plan. Call 1-884-580-7272 for more information about your Medi-Cal/Medicare options.


State Financial Aid Programs, managed by State Agencies

Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program. This is a public health insurance program which provides needed health care services for low-income individuals including families with children, seniors, persons with disabilities, foster care, pregnant women, and low income people with specific diseases such as tuberculosis, breast cancer or HIV/AIDS.

To learn more about MediCal, call the 24-hour automated InfoLine at 1-877-96-BENEFITS or 1-877-962-3633, or visit the Santa Clara County Medi-Cal Health Coverage web site. If you wish to apply for Medi-Cal however, your eligibility can only be fully evaluated by an Eligibility Worker (EW) at one of the County’s Social Services Agency Intake Offices. If and when you decide to apply, your Eligibility Worker will explain in further detail what requirements specifically apply to your situation.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance*

*(not a governmental program) The Partnership for Prescription Assistance helps qualifying patients without prescription drug coverage get the medicines they need for free or nearly free.

Covered California™ is an easy-to-use marketplace implementing the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in California. Through Covered California, you and your family can compare affordable, quality health insurance options and choose the one that best fits your needs and budget. By law, your coverage can’t be dropped or denied if you have a pre-existing medical condition or if you get sick. You may even be able to get financial assistance through Covered California to make your health coverage more affordable.

* To receive help with signing-up for Covered California in your area, you can search for persons and organizations certified and trained to provide such assistance:

    1. Go to the Covered California web site
    2. Mouse over the “Find Help” menu at the upper right side of the home page
    3. You will see links to various ways of getting assistance, including:
      • Live Chat, Help On Demand or “Call our Service Center 1-800-300-1506”
      • Find Local Help, with the following options:
        • Enrollment Centers – Search for Enrollment storefronts by location and languages spoken
        • Certified Enrollers – Find free and local help from a Certified Insurance Agent, Enrollment Counselor, or a County Social Services Office near you
        • Events Near You – Find local Covered California enrollment workshops and events
        • Enroll in  Medi-Cal at a local County Office – Learn how you may be enrolled in Medi-Cal if you apply for Covered California and meet low income requirements
        • Find County Office – Locate your County eligibility workers who can tell you about your health coverage options, help you apply and determine your eligibility for assistance in covering all or a portion of the cost. They can also determine your eligibility for nutrition benefits and cash assistance. The office for Santa Clara County:

Social Services Agency – Assistance Application Center
1867 Senter Road, San Jose, CA  95112
(408) 758-3800    1 (877) 962-3633  Automated

State Aid for unemployed workers is managed by the Employment Development Department (EDD), a part of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency of the State of California. EDD administers Unemployment Insurance, State Disability Insurance (Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave), and Worker’s Compensation


State Financial Aid Programs, managed by California Counties

Financial Assistance SCCo

California law requires that each county have a program to assist its low-income residents who are not eligible for cash assistance from other State and/or Federal programs. Santa Clara County’s program is called “General Assistance” or “GA.” The GA Program provides monthly payments to eligible persons legally residing in the County who have no other means of support.

All applicants for GA must apply at the:
General Assistance Office
1919 Senter Road, San Jose, CA 95112
For more information, look online at the Santa Clara County Financial Assistance web site, or call (408) 758-3100 and ask for the supervisor of the day.

The CalFresh Program helps single people and families with little or no income to buy food. In Santa Clara County, people authorized to receive CalFresh benefits can buy food by using a plastic CalFresh benefit card (as good as cash) to pay for food at a grocery store or other authorized place. *New* Starting June 1, 2019, seniors and people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/State
Supplementary Payment (SSP) will be allowed to receive CalFresh benefits. see Fact Sheet

To learn about eligibility requirements and how to apply for CalFresh, see the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency Food Assistance website.  However, eligibility for the program can only be fully evaluated by an Eligibility Worker at your local Social Services Agency Intake Office.  You can also call the 24-Hr Automated InfoLine: 1-877-96-BENEFITS  or 1-877-962-3633

The following document summarizes the above mentioned financial aid programs, and provides details such as qualifications, income limits, amount of benefits, and program name and web addresses: Summary of Federal and State Benefits Programs


Other Local Financial Aid

Local County Financial Assistance with Medical Bills

County hospital systems must treat people needing medical care, even if they have no insurance.  Patients are still responsible for their medical bills. But If you are uninsured, or even under-insured, you may be eligible for hospital “charity care” per the state of California law. People are “uninsured” if they have no medical insurance at all. People are considered “under-insured” if they have high out-of-pocket medical costs (usually defined as expenses that are greater than 10 percent of your income).  If you receive medical treatment via the Santa Clara County Health and Hospital System, see their Get Financial Services web page for more information.  

Financial Aid Legal Help

If you are denied financial benefits, or you believe your benefits have been unlawfully terminated, you can contact the following legal agencies agencies:

  • Mental Health Advocacy Project (MHAP) – These legal experts help clients with mental health issues access public and private benefits and insurance such as, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, Medi-Cal, Medicare, CalWORKs, Healthy Families, General Assistance and unemployment benefits.  Eligibility for free services:  mental or developmental disability.  For assistance:
    • Call 408-294-9730 or 800-248-6427, or
    • Visit office at 152 North 3rd St, (3rd Floor) SJ 95112
  • Bay Area Legal Aid Economic Justice Project – Represents individuals and families appealing unlawful terminations and wrongful denials of Supplemental Security Income, General Assistance, Food Stamps, In-Home Supportive Services, and also works to ensure that the CalWORKs program serves as a bridge to gainful employment.