Health Care

Senate panel aims to give kids broad right to seek counseling

Ayer Lippert
Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, and Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, chair of the House Health Care Committee, listen to testimony. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee wants to let minors consent to mental health treatment to address any concern.

The committee is seeking to expand H.230, which would allow minors to get counseling related to their sexual orientation or gender identity without needing parental permission.

“We know that you don’t have to be LGBTQ to be depressed, or have feelings of suicide, or wanting to hurt yourself,” said Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, the chair of Health and Welfare. “It’s a shame that you have to be qualified by being LGBTQ.”

“We looked at what 25 or 30 other states do, maybe 34, and thought, ‘This makes sense,’” Ayer said. “The issue is not avoiding parents. Most people who go to counseling that way say, ‘I can’t tell my parents. How do I tell my parents?’ That’s the issue.”

“What we learned about it is that it’s more likely to bring more kids back to their parents, to get their parents to help them with the problems they have,” she said. “Kids underestimate their parents and their caregivers very often.”

“They say, ‘I can’t talk about this,’” Ayer said. “And then they find out, your parents knew all along, or your parents kind of step up when someone helps you explain to them, and we see it as a good thing.”

The committee already passed the updated version of the bill 5-0. However, the full Senate delayed the vote on the bill so the committee could take more testimony Thursday.

If the Senate passes the new version of the bill, the House will need to decide whether to approve the changes. The House could also call for a committee of conference to negotiate a new version of the bill.

Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, the chair of the House Health Care Committee, said his panel had similar discussions about expanding the bill.

“Questions were raised — as an example, well, what if a child is being abused in some way, and it’s their parents?” Lippert said. “Shouldn’t they be able to go access mental health care and not get their parents’ permission?”

Lippert said his committee would need to look at whether it has time to consider the revised bill. He did not say whether his committee or the full House would concur or go to conference.

Also Wednesday, the Senate passed H.145, a bill to create a mental health response commission, and H.184, a bill that aims to find out why Vermonters take their lives, so the state can improve suicide prevention efforts.

Those two bills also move over to the House, which can vote to accept the Senate’s changes or to create a conference committee.

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  • Steve Baker

    I guess that’s the answer. Take family out of the equation?

  • Steve McKenzie

    “….what if a child is being abused in some way, and it’s their parents?”
    Lippert said. “Shouldn’t they be able to go access mental health care
    and not get their parents’ permission?”

    No, the child should report the abuse to an appropriate authority (parent, teacher, principal, pastor, policeman, etc.) in order to immediately address, and stop, the abuser. Seeking counseling doesn’t necessarily immediately address the abuse or the abuser.

    Progressively marginalizing parents right to know what is going on with their minor children (be it contraception, abortion or counseling) progressively marginalizes parents. Talking with parents is not always easy (at any age). Not involving parents prohibits the single most important role of parents: parenting.

    I found it disconcerting that my minor children could receive medical reproductive services without our consent, but required written approval to receive an aspirin for a headache. The potential impact on their (and our) lives of either issue was significantly different.

    • Jon Corrigan

      Given the national stats in the past year, it’s more likely a child is being abused by a teacher. Let’s impose mandatory background checks on school staff – do it for the children!

  • Matt Young

    While we are at it, why don’t we let children and families have a say in where children attend school. Talk with a counselor, if you don’t fit in, are being bullied, are being pressured to take meds or aren’t being challenged then you should be able to explore schools outside of the big public monopoly.

  • Tim Vincent

    To paraphrase Hillary Clinton:
    “It takes a legislature to raise a child.”

  • Paul Richards

    The government wants to be more and more in the driver’s seat and to be the authority on what is right and what is wrong. They want to be able to impart their beliefs on or children without any interference from their pesky parents. After all, the government trained “teachers” and “counselors” know better what is good and right for the children more so than their parents.
    I recently heard Lily Tang Williams speak about her childhood in communist China and the parallels to what she experienced there to what we are seeing here are eerily similar. The government is gaining control over our children from birth to grave. The teachers are being indoctrinated through our colleges and universities and then passing it on to the next generation. Globalism, socialism, big government and government dependence is being driven into our children’s heads through the public school monopoly. Tyranny is here and communism is on the way.

  • Brian Vogel

    If my minor children can access these services without my permission, don’t make me financially responsible for them until they turn 18, get them off my medical insurance long before 26 (immediately works) and tell me how the state is going to take over all my other parenting duties–formal adoption by the state, perhaps?