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Mental Health Care For 13 Year Olds – New Washington Law Makes it Easier for Parents

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Mental Health Care For 13 Year Olds – New Washington Law Makes it Easier for Parents

In Washington State, parents often struggle with how best to support their kids when they suffer from mental illness or substance abuse issues. A new initiative that is set to become law is an encouraging step in the right direction for families.

Peggy Dolane, a Seattle mom who was part of the work group that created this law, believes it is an important step toward providing teens with adequate healthcare. She notes that it strikes an appropriate balance between protecting teens’ rights while giving parents more control and information about their child’s treatment options.

Washington state and beyond have made an important step toward providing services for youth, as many teens remain without access due to limited services or lack of awareness about how to access them. Furthermore, Washington is working hard on issues related to youth suicide – which is the second leading cause of death among teens here.

State law until now allowed teenagers to defy their parents and not seek mental health treatment unless they posed an immediate danger to themselves or others. Karen Kelly, the mother of 13-year-old Hollie, could not force her daughter into taking substance abuse or mental health treatment against her will under current state regulations.

After Karen and her husband discovered Hollie was struggling with severe drug addiction, Karen took her to Portland, Ore. This city had one of the few treatment facilities for teens in Oregon that could adequately assess and treat Hollie’s underlying mental health condition. Once there, doctors administered medications, therapy sessions and other services as Hollie began her journey towards recovery.

But that was only the start. Before Hollie could start receiving treatment from her husband and family members, they needed to satisfy a series of legal requirements. They needed assurance that Hollie’s mental health condition was serious enough that immediate action should be taken and that the care provided was appropriate.

She needed to prove her daughter posed a danger to herself or others, that she lacked the capacity to make informed decisions about her treatment and that it was necessary to safeguard her.

Once she had proof, her lawyer was ready to go to court. Ultimately, they prevailed and Hollie began receiving medical care.

Hollie and her family received invaluable support throughout her year in treatment from a social worker, counselor, psychiatrist and therapists. Furthermore, they could take advantage of services and resources provided by a private psychiatric agency affiliated with Oregon’s Department of Human Services.

But the Kellys still faced a struggle to find treatment options in Oregon that could be tailored to Hollie’s individual needs. Unfortunately, few places offered crisis residential centers for youth without psychiatric diagnoses who weren’t eligible for more intensive inpatient options like CLIP.

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