A new law in Vermont allows youth to consent for outpatient mental health treatment without parental involvement. Find out more about the new law and what it means from David Rettew, MD, child psychiatrist at the UVM Medical Center.

Watch the video or read the transcript that follows.

WCAX: Welcome back, everyone, mental health continues to be a very big topic with decision-makers in Montpellier; some of their new initiatives are going to be taking effect soon. In this month’s Peace of Mind, we are talking about a new law regarding young people being able to consent for outpatient mental health treatment without their parents’ involvement. Dr. David Rettew is a child psychiatrist with UVM Medical Center, and he joins us tonight. Welcome back.

David Rettew: Good to be back.

WCAX: I wonder, just right off the bat, if you would talk about this new law and how things are gonna be different.

David Rettew: Well, sure. Most of the time, when an appointment for mental health is made, the parents are encouraging, maybe even pushing the kid to attend, but sometimes things work in reverse. Up until now, however, there was a requirement to have formal parental consent. Now there’s not.

WCAX: And what are the reasons for this law, do you think?

David Rettew: Well, I think some lawmakers were concerned about the rising suicide rate in youth, and the concern that perhaps kids were not getting the help that they need because of this requirement for parental consent. The original bill was written for LGBT youth under the idea that maybe they particularly would have some things that they are reluctant to disclose, but then the bill was expanded for everybody.

WCAX: Folks seek all kinds of treatment, does this apply to medication as well?

David Rettew: It applies only to therapy or counseling, not to medications, and I think that’s probably a good thing.

WCAX: Alright, doctor, if you would talk about the impact here, what do you think the impact of this change will be on families, on young people, on our community?

David Rettew: Well, I expect, and I hope, that it’s gonna get a few more people talking who might otherwise would not. However, I think the benefits might be a little limited because there’s some practical considerations too. I mean, kids have to get to appointments, there’s the whole matter of insurance, there’s the whole matter of payment. So it may not translate as much as we might like. My guess is that the place that will probably see it the most are in schools, where kids might be able now to talk to a guidance counselor or another mental health counselor there without needing to talk to parents first.

WCAX: And you actually testified to the legislature about this. You were on the fence a little bit; what was your decision making process, and it sounds like you support this.

David Rettew: Yeah, I think I outlined why I’m in favor, and I’m always a little concerned about government intrusion and to parent’s responsibility to be parents. Also worried that a little bit, that it might actually prevent kids from talking to their parents. A lot of times, kids think that they’re gonna get a very negative reaction from their parents, and they don’t, it’s nice to allow them to see how parents can be supportive.

WCAX: Do you have a message to those parents who are watching at home tonight and maybe on edge about this decision?

David Rettew: I would say that I don’t think it’s really gonna change things that much, but hopefully we’ll maybe get a few kids who wouldn’t be talking to or bring some of their issues to light.

WCAX: Dr. David Rettew, always some important information when you stop by, we appreciate your time.

David Rettew: My pleasure.

Learn more about Child Psychiatry at the University of Vermont Medical Center. 

Read more article by David Rettew.

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