Bill would allow kids as young as 12 to get counseling without parental consent

Associated Press
Published: 1/29/2020 3:16:26 PM

Children as young as 12 would be able to obtain confidential mental health treatment without their parents’ knowledge under a bill before a New Hampshire House committee.

Rep. Nicole Klein-Knight, D-Manchester, told the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee that her proposal is aimed at young people who don’t feel safe sharing their struggles with their parents or whose parents won’t help them.

“This bill is not for good parents. This bill is not for active parents. This bill is for the thousands of children that have addicts for parents or who have abusive parents or have a family they cannot go to,” she said.

The bill doesn’t draw those distinctions, however. Rep. Walter Stapleton, R-Claremont, pointed out the bill would prevent involved parents from even being notified of the outcome of such treatment. And Rep. Joe Schapiro, D-Keene, a psychotherapist who has worked with adolescents, said he has a strong bias toward “systems or family work” as part of treatment.

“That means families being involved, even families with lots of problems,” he said.

Other lawmakers raised logistical concerns, including whether the state has enough mental health providers to serve youth who might seek treatment under the bill and how young people would pay for such services if their parents weren’t involved. Klein-Knight said those were separate issues, but she was open to further work on the bill.

In Washington state, where the age of consent for mental health treatment has been 13 for decades, lawmakers passed legislation last year to give parents greater access to information about their teens’ mental health care.

Parents had long argued the old law made it difficult for them to help their children in times of crisis. The new law allows mental health providers to give limited information about a teen’s diagnosis and treatment as long as doing so is not detrimental to the teen. Parents also are now allowed to take teens to outpatient treatment even if the teen doesn’t consent.

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