WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Two mothers are opening up about how mental health care for their children led them to financial troubles, and how one family opened a GoFundMe page to help pay their medical bills.
Mariah Kolpek and Jen Zale have daughters who cheer together, and they are also dealing with severe mental health illnesses in their children.
Three years ago, Kolpek's son Carter was dealing with suicidal thoughts while her husband was undergoing cancer treatment. Her husband's emergency surgeries and days in the ICU were covered by insurance, thankfully, but she and her family had to scrounge together more than $100,000 for Carter's treatments.
"There was a point I was afraid he wasn’t going to make it," Kolpek said. "As a mom that’s terrifying... Families shouldn’t have to choose between not paying a mental health bill and then paying a funeral bill."
Kolpek said Carter is doing better now, and it was all worth it.
Zale said her 16-year-old daughter, Maddy, has been hospitalized twice for self harm, and after they found a center that suited Maddy's needs, the family started a GoFundMe page to help pay for treatments.
"That was very hard for us to put that out there," Zale said. "We’ve always been able to take care of ourselves... This place that is good, and she could be there a year, is out of network. And insurance isn’t paying for any of it."
Clinical psychologist Dr. Ashley Solomon said changes to the Mental Health Parity Act have led to greater coverage, but things like high deductibles and upfront payments are still present in mental health care.
"Insurance might cover individual therapy sessions," Solomon said, "but going from 24 hours a day to one hour a week is a huge leap and a lot of people are falling through the cracks in that space... Insurance companies today are not paying providers competitive market rates. So as a result of that, providers are going out of network with insurance and not accepting insurance.”
Zale's GoFundMe page has raised about half of the money they need for about five months of treatment so far. Until then, though, they are taking things one day at a time.
"We’re a little bit used to it now," Zale said. "I have days where I cry. Other days I’m like I got this, it’s fine. It goes in waves.”
If you would like to donate to Zale's GoFundMe page, click here.