On the Pulse

A Resource for Finding Mental Health Care for Children and Teens

5.28.2024 | Heather Cooper

a teen girl sits on the couch while talking to a woman she is facingOur entire nation is experiencing a youth mental health crisis. Families looking for help for their kids often have a very difficult time finding it. This is where Washington’s Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens can help. It connects families with mental health and behavioral health providers in your community who accept new patients, work with your insurance and are a good match for your child’s treatment needs.

Operated by Seattle Children’s and funded by the Washington State Health Care Authority, the Referral Service:

  • Is free.
  • Serves all of Washington state.
  • Provides specific and thorough referrals for kids ages 17 and younger.
  • Allows teens ages 13 to 17 to find providers for themselves by calling the Referral Service directly.
  • Is committed to serving families as quickly as possible.

The Referral Service helps families with a wide range of needs, including:

  • Individual therapy.
  • Medication management/psychiatric referrals.
  • Parent training.
  • Diagnostic evaluation (discovering and pinpointing the issues and conditions a child or teen may be dealing with).

By the end of 2023, 12,829 families had received help from this free resource to find mental and behavioral health services in their communities. In a survey of 1,182 families who used the Referral Service, nearly all said that it met their needs and that they would recommend it to other families.

Mollie Shirman, the Referral Service’s business operations manager, explains, “Accessing mental health care for your child can be difficult. Washington’s Mental Health Referral Service has a database of over 4,900 mental health providers that we update each day. Our program can help you navigate what your child needs and find appropriate referrals. You are not alone!”

To get started using the Referral Service:

  • Call 833-303-5437 Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time.


Approximately 2 weeks after their intake, families receive information for 1 or 2 recommended providers who are a good match for their child’s individual needs.