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06-22 Parental consent for treatment up for debate in New Jersey

Posted in Treatment Centers

Parental consent for treatment up for debate in New Jersey

A recent Assembly bill, the Boys and Girls Clubs Keystone Law (A-3435), was passed by the New Jersey Senate in May of 2015 and will permit minors in the state to receive mental health care without requiring parental consent. This has the potential to help many adolescents and teenagers who are struggling with mental health issues whose treatment, for whatever reason, would be compromised if parental consent was mandatory, as is the case under current state law.

This bill was inspired by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hudson County and, specifically, the Keystone Griffins Club, a group within the Boys and Girls Clubs that consists of teenagers working toward initiatives such as teen suicide prevention. According to Assemblyman Carmelo G. Garcia, a supporter of the bill, A-3435 builds on the anti-bullying measure that was established following the 2010 suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi by ensuring that minors have access to mental health services. Garcia stated, “Too often, teenagers feel they can’t open up… to parents.” The passing of A-3435 in the New Jersey Senate means it is now headed to the desk of Governor Chris Christie, who will make the decision whether to sign it into law.

An excerpt of A-3435 states, “When a minor believes that he is in need of behavioral health care services for the treatment of mental illness or emotional disorders, his consent to treatment under the supervision of a physician licensed to practice medicine, or an individual licensed to provide professional counseling… shall be valid and binding as if the minor had achieved the age of majority.” This section covers all licensed counselors, including psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists (MFTs) and social workers, among others. A-3435 also covers minors seeking treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, sexual assault and drug/alcohol treatment.

While most parents are supportive of their children with mental health issues seeking professional help, some parents lack an understanding of mental illness and can see diagnosis as an excuse for poorly behaved children or for inadequate parenting. A parent might perceive his or her daughter as “lazy” when she is really grappling with depression or might see his or her schizophrenic son as simply possessing an “overly active imagination.” The reality is that normal adolescent behavioral issues differ greatly from mental illnesses, which are often caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. The reason for these negative attitudes toward addressing mental health issues can partially be attributed to the surrounding stigma, in addition to the false belief that the presence of a mental illness in a child is a reflection of the parent.

The cost of mental health care can also deter parents from seeking treatment. However, every state now requires that mental health services be covered under private and group health insurance (as long as it meets certain criteria) through the Affordable Care Act and the mental health parity law. It is important to note that the longer a mental illness goes untreated, the higher the cost of treatment will ultimately be. There are also low-cost resources available, including free counseling at many public schools and community centers.

If your child is struggling with mental health issues, it is important to be supportive of his or her treatment. Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a facility that specializes in the treatment of adolescents and teenagers struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse and dual diagnosis. Call 866-615-7266 to speak with a professional today.

Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer

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