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Minor Consent for Mental Health Treatment

With the growing importance of school-based mental health services, it is important for educators to understand when a student may consent to their mental health treatment.

There are two statutes that give minors the right to consent to mental health treatment. If the minor meets the criteria under either statute, the minor may consent to his or her own treatment. If the minor meets the criteria under both, the provider may decide which statute to apply.

The initial statute – Health and Safety Code Section 124260 – provided that the minor must meet both of the following requirements:

• The minor is age 12 or older, and
• The minor is mature enough to participate intelligently in the treatment in the opinion of the attending professional person.

The minor can consent to the following:
• Outpatient mental health treatment and counseling by a professional person.

The minor cannot consent to the following:
• Inpatient mental health treatment,
• Psychotropic drugs,
• Convulsive therapy, and
• Psychosurgery.

A “professional person” can provide the outpatient services, but “professional person” is not defined. The Health and Safety Code provision does not apply to the recipients of benefits under the MediCal program. It is most likely that this section would apply to a therapist in private practice who wishes to treat a patient pro bono.

In 2010a new law went into effect that broadened the requirements for minor consent. Family Code Section 6924 provided that the minor must meet the following 3 conditions:

• The minor is age 12 or older,
• The minor is mature enough to participate intelligently in the treatment in the opinion of the attending professional person, and
• The minor would be in danger of serious physical or mental harm to him or herself or others without treatment or the minor is the alleged victim of incest or child abuse.

As with the Health and Safety Code provisions, the minor can consent to outpatient mental health treatment and counselling, but not to inpatient treatment, psychotropic drugs, convulsive therapy, or psychosurgery.

The following can provide mental services to consenting minors:
• A professional person (not defined),
• Government agencies,
• Agencies contracting with government agencies to provide the services,
• Agencies receiving community united funds, and
• Runaway or crisis resolution centers.

There are no insurance funding restrictions.

The health care provider is required to involve a parent or guardian in the minor’s treatment unless the health care provider decides that such involvement in inappropriate. This decision and any attempts to contact the parent must be documented in the minor’s records.