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Bill Lets 12 Year Olds Get Mental Health Help Without Parent Consent

Rachel Baye

Children as young as 12 will be able to get mental health treatment without the consent of a parent or guardian under a bill the General Assembly passed Thursday.

Current law allows minors who are at least 16 years old to seek mental health treatment on their own.

In the House on Thursday, Del. C.T. Wilson, a Democrat from Charles County, said this kind of policy would have been vital for him as a child. Wilson has been open about his experiences being abused when he was a child in foster care.

“We need every opportunity to protect our children,” Wilson said. “I know many of you are great parents, and you can't imagine somebody taking that choice from you, but not everybody is a great parent, I promise you. And these kids live in their hell and they suffer each and every day.”

However, several Republicans said they oppose the bill because it takes rights away from parents.

“We're assuming that only children of bad parents have mental health issues,” said Del. Mike Griffith, a Republican representing parts of Harford and Cecil counties. “If my kid, my 12 year old, 13 year old, has some kind of mental trauma, and I'm not informed about it, and they make a decision and take their own life, and I was not informed about it, I would never forgive myself.”

The bill has already passed the Senate. Thursday’s vote sends it to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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