— The governor today signed legislation authored by Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny) to more clearly define who can provide consent in order for a minor to receive mental health treatment.
“I’m thrilled after years of hard work that parents will definitely be able to get their children under the age of 18 the mental health assistance they need even if the minor refuses treatment,” Ortitay said. “COVID-19 has taken a toll on our children’s mental health. Suicides and drug overdoses have been climbing. Some providers have been misinterpreting a 2004 law and requiring minors 14 and older to consent to treatment. That was never the intent. This new law will clear up any confusion and allow parents to guide their children’s mental health needs.”
April Dugas of Smith Township brought this issue to Ortitay’s attention six years ago. Ms. Dugas was denied the right to consent for her daughter’s mental health treatment when she was a minor even after her daughter went through many traumas, including being brutally raped in high school. Her daughter became suicidal and developed a severe eating disorder that was diagnosed after the rape.
“April’s tireless work and advocacy led to the drafting and passage of House Bill 672
, known as Gabby’s Law, in honor of her late daughter, Gabrielle Marie Bruno,” Ortitay said. “Gabby’s life was tragically cut short on January 13, 2015, at 23 years of age. April has told me she saw many red flags, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and a spiral into bad life choices. As a parent, trying to get much needed help for her daughter, an outdated law gave Gabby and many other minors the right to blatantly refuse mental health treatment. Thanks to April’s work, courage, and passion, countless lives will be saved throughout the Commonwealth.”
Ortitay thanked his colleagues Reps. Marcia Hahn (R-Northampton), Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh) and Pam Snyder (D-Greene/Fayette/Washington) for their commitment to young people and helping to see this legislation to completion.
“This new law goes hand-in-hand with my Act 47 of 2018 that allows parents and legal guardians to provide consent over the objection of a minor in order to access substance abuse treatment,” Hahn said. “I’m pleased to see parents will finally now be able to secure mental health treatment for their minor children in the same fashion as substance abuse treatment. Every parent wants what is best for their child, especially in times of crisis.”
“All of us can agree that a minor and their parents should be active participants when seeking mental health treatment,” Schlossberg said. “I was proud to help get this one over the finish line, and I appreciate working with Representative Ortitay to get this done.”
“This law provides needed clarity for parents and providers, especially as it pertains to consent for mental health treatment,” Snyder said. “It removes any ambiguities and confusion and ensures that children older than 14 who are dealing with a mental health issue get the care they need. These children may already be dealing with significant mental health issues and are likely not in a position to make such monumental decisions regarding their care. Today, with this bill signed into law, parents and providers can do right by these children and ensure they’re getting the care and treatment they need.”
Act 65 of 2020 will clearly define that a parent or guardian has the right to consent to inpatient or outpatient mental health treatment on behalf of a minor under the age of 18 without a minor’s consent. A parent cannot overturn another parent’s consent on the minor’s behalf, but if one of the parents with legal custody rights objects to inpatient treatment sought by the other parent, a court petition can be filed and hearing held within 72 hours. In addition, a minor placed in mental health treatment will be advised of his or her right to appeal. When inpatient treatment is sought a professional review of the necessity will be performed. The law also will continue the provision of Act 147 of 2004 that allows minors age 14 and older to consent to treatment without the consent of their parent or guardian. The parent will not be able to revoke consent to treatment given by the minor.
Under the law, a minor will be discharged from inpatient treatment in one of three ways. They are:
• An attending physician determines the minor is no longer in need of treatment.
• Consent to treatment is revoked by the parent and the minor agrees to be discharged.
• A court ordered period of up to 20 days has expired, and the attending physician does not believe additional treatment is needed.
The new law goes into effect in 60 days.
The 46th Legislative District includes Collier and South Fayette townships and Bridgeville, Heidelberg, McDonald and Oakdale boroughs in Allegheny County. It also encompasses Canton, Cecil, Mt. Pleasant, Robinson and Smith townships and Burgettstown, McDonald and Midway boroughs in Washington County.
Representative Jason Ortitay
46th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tracy Polovick