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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: February 22, 2019 03:31 PM
From: Representative Jason Ortitay and Rep. Marcia M. Hahn, Rep. Pam Snyder
To: All House members
Subject: Mental Health Age of Consent
Are you one of the many members who has heard from frustrated and frightened parents who have been told that their children over age 14 have a right to decide for themselves whether or not to engage in mental health treatment? If so, you know the level of concern these folks are going through and how terrible it is to recognize that you are powerless to help your own child who may be in the throes of a mental illness and desperately in need of life-saving care. For the past two sessions, we have been on a quest to rectify this situation and unfortunately, we have not been successful. Let’s hope three times will be the charm for this issue.

In spite of an abundance of clarity in the existing law, there is much confusion among providers, minors, and parents regarding the rights of each party. Act 147 of 2004 provides that parents are permitted to consent for any mental health treatment their child may require. However, minors are allowed to refuse treatment even if the parent consents. We worked with the Departments of Health and Human Services and was able to influence them to issue a bulletin clarifying the provisions of the act. But then, the agencies failed to disseminate the information widely and so the circumstances continue to pile up where families fear for their safety and for the safety of their loved ones. The adolescent brain is not fully developed until after age 24, and yet these adult-decisions are being left in the hands of ill-equipped minors who may not be thinking clearly due to their mental illness.

Our observation based on constituent inquiries is that we need to further simplify things to eliminate any confusion. Children from the age of 14 to 18 need parental guidance for decisions of this magnitude, especially when they are struggling with a mental health concern. Therefore, our legislation will repeal the sections of the act that are creating confusion and replace them with words that are less likely to be misinterpreted. A copy of the draft is attached for your review. We urge you to consider joining us in co-sponsorship of this crucial matter.

Introduced as HB672