Under House Bill 213, unaccompanied children ages 16 and older would not need permission from a parent or guardian for mental health services. Rep. Joni Jenkins (D-Louisville) and Rep. David Meade (Rep.) are co-sponsoring the bill, saying it could help more than 3,000 young people in Kentucky.
HB 213 has passed the Kentucky House during the 2020 Regular Session and is awaiting a committee hearing in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The bill passed the House unanimously in a 95-0 vote of approval.
Aside from mental health outpatient care to those 16 and older, the bill states that any physician, upon consultation by a minor as a patient and with the consent of such minor may make a diagnostic examination for venereal disease, pregnancy or substance use disorder and may advise, prescribe for, and treat such minor regarding those issues without the consent of or notification to the parent, parents or guardian of such minor patient, or to any other person having custody of such minor patient.
However, treatment under this bill does not include inducing of an abortion or the performance of a sterilization operation.
“The consent of a minor who represents that he or she may give effective consent for the purpose of receiving outpatient mental health counseling from a qualified mental health professional, but who may not in fact do so, shall be deemed effective without the consent of the minor’s parent or legal guardian if the person rendering the service relied in good faith upon the representation of the minor after a reasonable attempt to obtain parental consent or to verify the minor’s age and status as an accompanied youth,” the bill states.
Harry Pedigo, executive director of St. Benedict’s Homeless Shelter, said this bill would be positive for children who have suffered abuse, neglect or trauma that has hindered their mental health.
“It allows them to feel safe enough to seek help by having their right to not have a parent present, or an abuser,” he said. “Not only that, but children are resilient and, most likely, this bill could combat life-altering mental illness by addressing it at an earlier age.”
On the flip side, Pedigo said, young people haven’t fully developed, and, in some cases, parental consent could come in handy when dealing with mental health services for a teenager.
“A teenager hasn’t fully developed psychologically enough to make the most responsible decisions on their own, and it kind of takes the rights from the parents,” he said.