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caption: File photo of Peggy Dolane, parent and mental health advocate, and Kathy Brewer, administrator at Seattle Children's Hospital. Both women lobbied for passage of a bill that would expand mental health treatment options for adolescents.
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File photo of Peggy Dolane, parent and mental health advocate, and Kathy Brewer, administrator at Seattle Children's Hospital. Both women lobbied for passage of a bill that would expand mental health treatment options for adolescents.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang

Parents cheer final passage of bill to help mentally ill teens

A bill that would give parents in Washington state more rights to access mental health treatment for their teenage kids has passed the legislature.

A version of House Bill 1874 received final approval from the House of Representatives today on a vote of 88-8.

"It's a really gigantic step forward to give parents and families more tools to help kids who are experiencing a mental health crisis," said Rep. Noel Frame of Seattle, the lead sponsor of the bill.

The bill is meant to plug holes in a current Washington state law which gives teenagers 13 and over the right to access mental health treatment.

That law, which dates back to 1985, is meant to make it easier for teens to get help without their parents' consent. At the same time, the law also gives them the right to refuse treatment and to withhold treatment information from their parents.

For years, parents have argued that makes it difficult for them to help their kids if they are in crisis or if they otherwise are in need of mental health services.

The bill was the result of more than a year of consultations between parents, youth advocates and mental health experts.

Passage of the legislation is evidence that people “can come together and forge a solution to a problem that was once considered unsolvable,” said Peggy Dolane, a parent who was one of the main advocates for the legislation.

The bill would allow mental health care providers to give limited information to parents about their teens’ diagnosis and treatment plan — as long as releasing that information is not detrimental to the teen. It would also allow parents to take teens to outpatient mental health treatment, even if the teen doesn’t give consent.

According to Rep. Frame, the bill is a major component of several pieces of legislation this year that would increase access to behavioral health care for children and youth.

The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for his signature.

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