by Shane Vander Hart
Four Colorado state legislators have introduced a bill that would lower the state’s age of consent for outpatient psychotherapy from 15 to 10 years of age.
State Representatives Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-HD 30) and Lois Landgraf (R-HD 21) along with State Senators Steve Fenberg (D-SD 18) and Don Coram (R-SD 6) are sponsors of HB17-1320. The bill’s description reads:
The bill lowers the age of consent from 15 years of age and older to 10 years of age and older for a minor to seek and obtain outpatient psychotherapy services from a licensed mental health professional. The bill allows a minor 10 years of age or older to receive such outpatient psychotherapy services without the consent of his or her parent or guardian. The licensed mental health professional is immune from civil or criminal liability for providing outpatient psychotherapy services unless he or she acts negligently or outside the scope of his or her practice.
The bill clarifies that the age of consent for a minor seeking inpatient psychotherapy or other inpatient mental health services without the consent of a parent or legal guardian remains 15 years of age or older.
First off, as a parent of a teenager and now two young adults I’m horrified that the age of consent for outpatient psychotherapy in Colorado is 15 years of age. Parents need to give consent and should be able to choose the provider for their child. This wouldn’t fly in any other medical circumstance — besides abortion, which in Colorado requires parental notification 48 hours before an abortion can be done (not that Planned Parenthood doesn’t coach kids on how to bypass that).
Second, in what world does a 10-year-old seek psychotherapy without the involvement of their parents anyway? Is there some huge need for this in Colorado? Are 10-year-olds clamoring for psychotherapy, and if parents do not provide consent, are they compelled to pay?
Suicide prevention is one reason I’ve heard given to justify this bill, but frankly, if a student is suicidal, wouldn’t you want the parents involved? If it were my student, I would want to know and get them the help they need. If there is abuse or neglect going on that is precipitating this, then there are legal remedies.
This is simply an attempt by the state of Colorado to further usurp parental responsibilities and rights, and it should be vigorously opposed. Schools and youth organizations can be a resource for parents and provide referrals, but they should never be allowed to bypass them.
UPDATE: Under pressure from many concerned parents and citizens, one of the bill’s original sponsors, state Rep. Lois Landgraf, has pulled her name from the legislation and voted against it in committee. However, the bill still narrowly passed committee by a 7-6 vote.