Jan. 25, 2023

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services issued guidance earlier this week on a law authored by Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny) that more clearly defines who can provide consent in order for a minor to receive mental health treatment.

“For years, I worked to advance a law to confirm that parents definitely have the ability to place their children under the age of 18 into mental health assistance even if the minor refuses treatment,” Ortitay said. “Despite the law going into effect in 2020, medical professionals, schools and medical facilities still were creating obstacles for parents. I fought for the department to issue this guidance, and it finally agreed. This should clear up any confusion and will undoubtedly save lives.”

April Dugas of Smith Township initially brought this issue to Ortitay’s attention more than eight years ago. 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.

“April’s tireless work and advocacy led to the passage of Act 65 of 2020, known as Gabby’s Law, in honor of her late daughter, Gabrielle Marie Bruno,” Ortitay said. “As a parent, trying to get much-needed help for her daughter, an outdated law gave Gabby and many other minors the right to blatantly refuse mental health treatment. Despite the passage of Gabby’s Law almost three years ago, some providers continued to prevent parents from helping their children.”

Act 65 of 2020 clearly defined 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, under the law, a minor placed in mental health treatment is advised of his or her right to appeal. When inpatient treatment is sought, a professional review of the necessity is performed. The law also continues the provision of Act 147 of 2004, which allows minors age 14 and older to consent to treatment without the consent of their parent or guardian. The parent cannot revoke consent to treatment given by the minor.

Under the law, a minor can be discharged from inpatient treatment in one of three ways:

• 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 guidance can be reviewed here.

The 46th Legislative District includes South Fayette Township and McDonald and Oakdale boroughs in Allegheny County. It also encompasses Cecil, Chartiers, Mt. Pleasant and North Strabane (Districts 6,7,8 and 9) townships and Canonsburg, Houston and McDonald boroughs in Washington County.

Representative Jason Ortitay
46th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Tracy Polovick
RepOrtitay.com / Facebook.com/RepOrtitay