Lower Age for Consent Took Effect October 1
Senate Bill 41 reduces the age of consent from 16 to 12 years for those seeking mental health treatment. If the licensed provider determines that the child is mature and capable of giving informed consent, a child in Maryland may now seek and receive treatment without parental consent in the same capacity as an adult. It is within the professional discretion of the clinician to decide if, when, and how to inform parents, unless the provider believes that the disclosure will lead to harm to the minor. This law went into effect on October 1, 2021.
The new law gives a licensed provider the opportunity to assess the mental health concern of a youth more quickly in crisis and in other serious situations. There are two caveats, however: (1) the new law does not apply to medication-based treatment, and (2) when a minor 12-15 offers consent, insurance claims cannot be made without parental permission and the parent is not liable for the treatment fees.
The law does not allow minors to refuse mental health treatment that their parents have authorized. Under this newly enacted legislation, health care providers maintain the ability to inform parents of their child’s care plan regardless of whether they give their consent. Additionally, youths under the age of 16 cannot be prescribed psychiatric medication without parental permission.
Please note that there will be no new/updated regulations since nothing new is required. The practitioner has the discretion to determine whether the minor is mature and capable of consenting. The practitioner also has the authority to communicate with parents/guardian, if the practitioner feels it is in the best interest of the patient. The only limitation is for medication, which requires parental authorization.
The law is intended to remove barriers to mental health services for youth with suicidal ideation and other time-sensitive circumstances. Additionally, this law is intended to support special subpopulations, such as youth in the LGBTQIA+ community and those needing emergency attention from Mobile Crisis Teams in situations where a parent cannot be reached or refuses.
Maryland is not the first state to allow minors to consent to outpatient therapy. A 2015 report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, listed California, Georgia, Illinois and West Virginia as states with similar laws. You can also view the School Based Health Care’s Webinar on the new minor consent law at this link: https://vimeo.com/620126737. The details of how far the law stretches, e.g. inpatient, ECT, will need to be worked out and tested. Please notify MPS of any questions or concerns.
Meagan Floyd, Associate Director