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Home » About Us » FAQs About FERC

Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are there any fees associated with FERC?

2. What are the eligibility criteria for this program? Are there specific age or gender qualifications, or are there specific ethnic groups which are primarily served?

3.This agency works to empower family members, but what are the most common types of referrals you make and are there any that you will not assist with?

4. What criteria do you look at when selecting an agency or organization to be a referral for a caregiver in need (does it have to be non-profits, government agencies, religious, or within a certain area?)

5. What are the most common issues you see with Care Givers of the mentally ill?

6. How many people does FERC help annually? Are the majority of your target population long-term receivers of assistance or do they only use the agency a few times?

7. If someone has a question when you are closed is there another place they can contact?

8. After a hospitalization for a mental illness and subsequent discharge, is the individual/caretaker responsible for contacting your agency or does FERC make an effort to contact newly discharged patients and families?

 

1. Are there any fees associated with FERC?

There are no fees for our services at all.  Our budget comes entirely from Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63) funding and is overseen by the Mental Health Association of Alameda County and further monitored by Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services Agency.

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2. What is the eligibility criteria for this program? Are there specific age or gender qualifications, or are there specific ethnic groups which are primarily served?

Our client population is the family members and/or caregivers of those with severe mental illness (or in a child’s case, a serious emotional disturbance) in Alameda County.  We do have targeted groups but we provide service to all.  We aim our services, and make easily available to those who are not served, underserved or inappropriately served. There are no barriers of age or gender or ethnicity for either the caregiver or the person cared for.  We have some in house language and culture skills and will eventally set up a language line to be able to deal with about 120 of the most common languages in Alameda County. Alameda County's threshold languages are Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Farsi. We partner with culturally appropriate organizations to offer referrals to places that our clients can feel most comfortable receiving services. We are organized, like most of California’s services, by county and therefore work within Alameda County.  However we do not turn anyone away but give them our best assistance now, and a referral to a Family Advocate or a referral system within their own county, when appropriate.  While our main focus is on the family, we also provide assistance to persons who are consumers, seeking support for themselves.

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3. This agency works to empower family members, but what are the most common types of referrals you make and are there any that you will not assist with?

Referrals are only one part of what we do at FERC.  We also provide information, education, resources, provide and discuss options for 'what to do', offer validation and most importantly, hope.  As to referrals, we are asked about many different issues: housing, employment, varying levels of care, access to benefits, medications, the criminal and juvenile justice systems, safety, dual diagnosis or co-occuring disorders options, support groups and organizations, age related options, crisis stabilization, and even to other referral centered agencies.  We will assist in some way with all calls, and will likely provide more time and service to those families/caregivers with loved ones with persistent and serious mental illness.  FERC does not make referrals to or endorse any private practitioners.

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4. What criteria do you look at when selecting an agency or organization to be a referral for a caregiver in need (does it have to be non-profits, government agencies, religious, or within a certain area?)

Nearly all the agencies and organizations in our database are government entities or are nonprofits with a proven, positive track record.  The care providing agency should be present anywhere in Alameda County, as that is where our clients reside.  Beyond that, we work to be sure that we are knowledgeable up front on an agency’s eligibility criteria before we make a referral. We look for agencies that will accept the client as eligible, ones that  the client can reach easily  given whatever transportation issues they may be facing, and the client should be able to make use of the services without barriers once there.  We generally offer several options in making referrals to make sure that the client can find one that is viable.  We purposefully offer options, so the family and client can investigate them and choose the one that seems to be the best fit for them.  We are also available to help discuss the pros and cons of the options presented to the family member.  In this climate of changing funding, rules may change more quickly than we are able to keep up.  In shortest supply are jobs and housing, thus we provide nearly all that we can in the way of options for those.  We are not able to always match clients and referrals optimally as services may not distributed around the county in the same manner that need arises.  Any referral that can satisfy the need and is not discriminatory is worthwhile.

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5. What are the most common issues you see with Care Givers of the mentally ill?

Most issues have to do with something called family ‘burden’.  Burden can involve, and usually does, any of grief, anger, fear, financial straits, breakup of the family, burnout, loss of self worth, lost time, stress, loss of the future, powerlessness, isolation, other health issues, and also planning for the future – such as “what will happen” e.g. when the caregiver is gone.  We also provide education to support the family member in learning more about the illness so that they have practical tips to effectively support their loved one towards recovery (noting that ‘recovery’ means so many different things to different people). The referrals are the easy part.  We must also help the caregiver feel able to proceed in a frequently uphill struggle to provide care and support.  In this direction we give confirmation (you are a good person and not the cause of your loved one’s illness) and validation (you are doing a good job).  We are able to do this because all of us at FERC are primary caregivers ourselves of someone in our own family.

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6. How many people does FERC help annually? Are the majority of your target population long-term receivers of assistance or do they only use the agency a few times?

FERC has been accepting clients since September, 2009. Between then through January 2012, FERC served nearly 2000 new, unduplicated clients.  Most of our clients initiate services over the phone, but we have many in person meetings and we do have a good number of walk-in clients. Many families we serve have loved ones with serious and persistent mental health issues. These families require more contact over time.  During a crisis period, we may speak with family members daily. For other families, a new issue, such as a hospitalization or an arrest, may send the whole process back to the beginning to be done again, meaning we see clients periodically, over time.

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7. If someone has a question when you are closed is there another place they can contact?

Our 1-888-896-3372 warm line (non-crisis, information and referrals) number is the primary portal for accessing FERC services.  The warm line operator will also be our Volunteer trainer and coordinator.  Once there are sufficient numbers of trained volunteers for the warm line, the hours will expand from Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, to include evening and weekend hours.  Outside the covered hours there is voice mail answered the next business day. It notes the County emergency/ crisis numbers, and our website, which lists several emergency numbers and organizations, other referral agencies for specific issues and pages of information and links for specific concerns.

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8. After a hospitalization for a mental illness and subsequent discharge, is the individual/caretaker responsible for contacting your agency or does FERC make an effort to contact newly discharged patients and families?

It is best for the family if they connect with us before the discharge.  Much of the information that we are able to provide has to do with the rights of the family (for example related to communicating to the care team) while their loved one receives treatment and assistance in planning well for a successful discharge.  Even earlier than a hospitalization, families need to understand the process of an ‘involuntary’ hospitalization and associated tips to work most effectively with law enforcement through such a process.  Optimally, we would wish to have clients come in or call before a crisis, before a discharge, at a time that could be classified as early intervention.  Unfortunately, most who deal with the mental health system do so for the first time at a moment of crisis and shock and are totally new to all aspects of what will happen.  Most of our contacts are sent to us by different partnering referrers.  More are now reaching us because of the outreach we doing.  Our brochures and posters are going up in areas accessible to our target populations and more agencies are aware of our presence and willing to send their clients for the help that they themselves do not provide.  It is our goal that FERC will conduct similar types of on-sight outreach at other venues such as faith-based groups, schools, health faires, and places where we can reach gatherings of people.

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