How to Determine Level of Care for Mental Health


Use an established biopsychosocial assessment tool. This comprehensive assessment should include sections about presenting symptoms and complaints, mental health history, family history, abuse history, drug and alcohol use, suicide/homicide risk, and treatment history.


Find a private location to discuss these sensitive matters. Set aside about an hour of time to interview the patient and gather data. Be patient and thorough to determine risks for harm to self or others. Be aware of surroundings and access to exits if the patient becomes unstable or unsafe during the assessment. Know facility guidelines and safety procedures if intervention is needed to prevent harm.


Develop a treatment plan based on the mental health assessment. Patients who are not an imminent risk to self or others can usually be managed in an outpatient setting. For example, they can go to weekly appointments for therapy. Patients who have plans to harm self or others will need inpatient care on a locked unit to prevent suicide or homicide. The length of stay in the hospital may vary.

It requires a trained health care worker to determine an appropriate level of care for mental health patients. A qualified clinician may include a licensed counselor, social worker, nurse or physician. A comprehensive assessment is necessary to determine an appropriate level of care. Levels of care include outpatient services, day treatment programs or inpatient hospitalization. Criteria is determined based on the safety concerns of the patient.