In New Jersey, a law will soon be in the books that will cut parents out of mental health decisions. Noted in the MadInAmerica.com site, The Hoboken Patch and PolitickerNJ reported that the New Jersey State Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would allow teens to “consent” to psychiatric or psychological treatment of any kind without the consent — or even the knowledge — of their parents.
The reasoning behind this bill is about taking the stigma away from minors who have mental health issues or disorders. Although they say that it has been researched regarding this stigma, I have yet to see this research anywhere. So this begs the question, “How true is this research and where the statistics of this research are?”
The Keystone Club of the Hudson County Boys & Girls Clubs pushed hard for this bill. The reason why? The Keystone Club are Teen Leaders who WROTE the bill. Because many of them came from a dysfunctional family, they would not be able to get the mental help they needed. I personally made a call to the Keystone Club and spoke to one of the Youth Directors who asked to not be quoted, so I am not using her name. I had some very serious questions in which she could not answer and only referred me to speak to a mental health professional.
In order to know what is in this bill, below in the text of the bill.
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 under Title 45 of the Revised Statutes, including, but not limited to, a psychiatrist, licensed practicing psychologist, certified social worker, licensed clinical social worker, licensed social worker, licensed marriage and family therapist, certified psychoanalyst, licensed psychologist or licensed clinical social worker, or in a health care facility licensed pursuant to P.L.1971, c.136 (C.26:2H-1 et seq.) shall be valid and binding as if the minor had achieved the age of majority. Any such consent shall not be subject to later disaffirmance by reason of minority. Treatment for behavioral health care services for mental illness or emotional disorders that is consented to by a minor shall be considered confidential information between the physician, the individual licensed to provide professional counseling, or the health care facility, as appropriate, and the patient, and neither the minor nor his physician, professional counselor, or health care facility, as appropriate, shall be required to report such treatment when it is the result of voluntary consent.
The consent of no other person or persons, including but not limited to, a spouse, parent, custodian or guardian, shall be necessary in order to authorize such hospital, facility or clinical care or services [or], medical or surgical care or services, or counseling to be provided by: a physician licensed to practice medicine [or by]; an individual licensed or certified to provide treatment for alcoholism; or an individual licensed to provide professional counseling under Title 45 of the Revised Statutes, as appropriate, to such a minor.
ASSEMBLY, No. 3435, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, 216th LEGISLATURE (Introduced June 23, 2014)
This is quite scary. Although the bill was written in mind for high school students who came from dysfunctional families who were suicidal or depressed, being gay or transgender (she quoted this), the issue is that you don’t have to have a dysfunctional family in order to get access to a doctor for medications.
Can you imagine that someone else that you do not know, giving medications to your child without knowing the history (medical/mental/emotional) that you as the parent knows? Is the doctor going to do a background search on the teen to see if their family is dysfunctional? Who is going to make sure they take their medication every day? The woman said she didn’t have that answer. Who is going to pay for the serious side effects on your child when it goes horribly wrong? Again, the woman said she didn’t have that answer other than that the hospital will handle that.
The teen who has mental health issues may not always tell the truth just like any other teen who doesn’t have mental health issues. A doctor will not always know how truthful a child is because they don’t live with that child.
More serious of an issue, medications can be highly addictive. How can the doctors be sure (when they do not spend 24 hours with them) if that teen is selling the medication to someone else or abusing it. Will the parents (instead of the doctor) be liable for that as well? Will the parents be at fault despite the law saying they have no rights due to patient and doctor confidentiality? Again, the woman did not have those answers.
The Keystone Director said that the teen leaders who wrote this bill are no different than the teens who can access abortions and birth control. Her point is that teens want rights to have access to anything that will help them. The problem with this theology is that teens do not understand adult issues such as these nor their consequences.
Studies have shown (with many statistics and research) that the frontal cortex of the brain where reasoning, comprehension, and critical thinking does not fully develop until the early 20’s. How then can a child/pre-teen/teen understand what is even being said to them in a doctor’s office? That’s why parents (or legal guardian) who are the child’s best advocate, need to be able to monitor, explain, guide this teen in this very important matter.
But let’s look at it in another way. I understand that many parents of teens suffer from the stigma of mental illness and won’t seek help. However, we can create programs to help families rise above that stigma and still empower parents and teens at the same time. If the teen doesn’t have a parent, another legal guardian can step in to be that advocate for that child. To have the teen make all the decisions by just what a doctor says can be detrimental in the wrong way.
This is a very dangerous bill that will have severe consequences. It was obvious that my questioning to the director of the Keystone Club was irritating to her and that I, as a parent, didn’t understand her. She blatantly came out and said that there was something wrong with me. She interrupted me to push her point of view and when I tried to speak, she rebuffed me.
If we want to change the stigma of mental illness, then we need to let parents know that mental illness is not a tragedy, a curse, or that their child’s life is over. I am for medication (when in proper use) to help our teens, but let us do it wisely and with support for the WHOLE family.