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.

For 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

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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 qualify for SSI, you can usually get CalFresh (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 payments are made on the basis of financial need. For more details, see:

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 successfully 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 at TTY 1-800-325-0778.
  • Apply online with Social Security
  • Visit your local Social Security office (Call first to make an appointment)

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Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, and for certain younger people with disabilities (including mental health disabilities) who have received Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits for 24 months. Medicare covers inpatient and outpatient hospital healthcare. U.S. citizens who meet the eligibility requirements for Medicare can get it, no matter what their income level. As of 2024, your personal assets have no bearing on eligibility (no asset limits).

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State Financial Aid Programs, Managed by State Agencies

Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program. Medi-Cal is a public health insurance program which provides inpatient and outpatient healthcare to low-income individuals and their families, as well as coverage to certain groups, such as pregnant people, blind people, or those who are disabled (including mental health disabilities). You may have personal assets and still be eligible for Medi-Cal.

*NEW* Starting January 1, 2024, more adults became eligible for full Medi-Cal benefits:

  • Immigration status doesn’t matter
  • Assets (such as bank accounts, cash, a second vehicle, and homes) are not counted when determining Medi-Cal eligibility

To learn more about Medi-Cal, 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, the County offers mail, phone, online and in-person options. See the County’s Apply for Benefits web page for details. However, your eligibility can only be fully evaluated by an Eligibility Worker (EW). During the application process, your Eligibility Worker will explain in further detail what requirements specifically apply to your situation.

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Some people with mental illness have both Medicare and Medi-Cal (known as a dually eligible beneficiary). For most dual eligible members, Medicare and Medi-Cal operate separately, with limited coordination across program benefits. Medi-Medi Plans (MMPs), available in some California counties (including Santa Clara County), provide coordinated care for dual members through one health plan and include possible additional benefits such as dental, hearing, or vision coverage.  (Note: MMP used to be called Cal Medi-Connect.)

There are three ways to join a Medi-Medi Plan:

  • ​If already enrolled in a Medi-Cal plan, call the plan directly and ask about their Medi-Medi plan option
  • Call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE
  • Call Health Care Options at 1-844-580-7272 (TTY 1-800-430-7077).​

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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 for a quick quote on coverage.
    2. For more information, go to the Get Started page. (Note that Covered California and Medi-Cal use the same application. That means that once you apply, you’ll find out which program you qualify for. Some households qualify for both.)
    3. On the How Do I Apply page, click on one of the 3 tabs or ways to start an application:
      1. Apply online
      2. Call a Certified Enroller
      3. Have an Enroller call you (apply by phone)

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The Employment Development Department (EDD) manage the Unemployment Insurance and State Disability Insurance (SDI) programs for the State of California. See the EDD Claims page for more information and instructions on how to apply. SDI includes:

  • Disability Insurance
  • Paid Family Leave
  • Non-industrial Disability Insurance (includes Disability Insurance and Family Care Leave)

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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. The Santa Clara County Department of Employment and Benefits Services (DEBS) provides financial assistance to individuals and families with little or no income. Assistance is provided through a variety of publicly funded programs. If you meet eligibility requirements, one of the following programs may help you or your family with cash assistance:

If you wish to apply for County Financial Aid, the County offers mail, phone, fax, online and in-person options. See the County’s Apply for Benefits web page for details.

CalFresh Food is California’s name for the federal food program called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that used to be known as Food Stamps. It’s a nutrition program for California residents with low income that increases your food budget. 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. The benefit amount is based on your family size, income and some living costs. You can use the online tool See if I’m Eligible before completing an actual application to estimate your CalFresh Food eligibility. Then you can begin the CalFresh Application Process.

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How to Transfer Benefits Between Counties

If you have been receiving County benefits in another County and move to Santa Clara County, you will need to request an “Inter County Transfer (ICT)” from your previous County. Doing this promptly ensures you have no interruption of aid. Benefits that you must transfer from your old county to your new one include:

  • Medi-Cal
  • CalFresh
  • CalWORKs/cash aid

Your previous County will have to release your case before Santa Clara can gain control. Contact your Eligibility Worker in your previous County Office and report your address change to begin a case transfer to your new County. If you have Medi-Cal, you must report your move within 10 days of the change. You can do this by phone, mail, fax, online or in person. If you arrived from another state, you will need to complete a new Medi-Cal application with Santa Clara County to qualify under California rules and regulations.

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Other Local Financial Assistance

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.” Read “What should I do if I can’t pay a medical bill?” from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for more information and advice. If you receive medical treatment via the Santa Clara County Health and Hospital System and cannot pay, see their Financial Help for Health Care web page for details on County financial help with medical bills.

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

Law Foundation of Silicon Valley – Health Program – Phone: 408-280-2420, Mon – Fri, 1 – 4 pm
Address: 4 North 2nd St, Suite 1300, San Jose. Walk-In hours are Tues & Thurs 1 – 3 pm
Their Health Program provides free legal advice and representation to individuals in Santa Clara County who identify as living with mental health disabilities. The Health Program can assist with:

  • Public benefit matters including reductions, overpayments and terminations of Social Security (SSI/SSDI), Medi-Cal, Medicare, CalWORKS, CalFresh (food stamps), CAPI, General Assistance (GA)
  • Reasonable accommodation to access benefits programs
  • Investigation of allegations of abuse or denial of rights at mental health facilities
  • Advocacy for access to county mental health services
  • Assistance with name and gender marker to align with gender identity through Pro Bono Clinic
  • Investigate sweeps of individuals’ property
  • Limited counsel & advice for debtor’s rights issues/creditor harassments

Bay Area Legal Aid Economic Justice Project –  Legal advice line: 800-551-5554 (advice line hours: M & Th 9:30am-3pm; Tu & W 9:30am-1pm)
Represents individuals and families appealing unlawful terminations and wrongful denials of SSI or SSDI, General Assistance, CalFresh (Food Stamps), In-Home Supportive Services, and also works to ensure that the CalWORKs program serves as a bridge to gainful employment.

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