While most states historically made the decision to allow parents to make decisions for their children, a recent uptick in emancipation and the severity of mental health treatment have had certain states revamp their laws.
Of specific note is California, which has one of the largest populations in the country. California has one of the youngest official ages for consent to mental health treatment, at just 12 years old. These laws also stipulate that the patient is also smart and mature enough to participate in their own treatment, and has the ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings in a healthy manner.
A minor that is 12 years of age or older in the state of California does have its limitations. For example, minors can consent to outpatient mental health treatment and even counseling through a qualified professional, but cannot consent to inpatient treatment, drugs, or psychosurgery. Other states, such as Vermont and New Hampshire allow minors to consent to various treatments provided it is for something specific and diagnosable. For example, New Hampshire allows 14-year-olds to consent to mental health treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and 12-year-olds to consent to mental health treatment for alcohol or drug abuse.
Most states allow minors between 12 and 16 to consent to their own mental health treatment. Maryland lowered their age of consent for mental health treatment from 16 to 12 in 2021. Minors in Connecticut can receive six sessions of mental health counseling with no parental consent.
There are 18 states that either require a person to be 18 years of age or older to consent to mental health treatment or that make no law giving a right to consent to minors seeking mental health services.
All states have some sort of law that allows minors to be diagnosed and treated for certain mental health concerns in special circumstances, with the youngest age being 12, and the generally accepted age of majority being 18 for medical care consent. the laws may be more strict in certain places, but all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) allow minors to consent to the testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. The only limitation to this rule is that HIV specifically can only be tested, and not treated with one's own consent if you're a minor in certain circumstances.
Texas and Utah are amongst the most strict and notably, prohibit the use of funds within the state to provide contraceptive services to minors without the consent of the parents or guardian available. Another state, Iowa, provides testing on notification from the minor, but must legally inform parents or legal guardians if a positive test is received.
Although most states do have laws that concern routine medical care for minors, many still do not have any specific information on consent to mental health as a result of infectious diseases or other trauma, and instead, rely on a case-by-case basis. This has certainly been brought to attention during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Age of Consent for Mental Health Treatment
|Rhode Island||18||Not defined|
|South Dakota||18||Not defined|
|West Virginia||18||Not defined|