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Bill Would Allow Minors to Own Mental Health Care

Missouri's Capitol Building in 2017.
Meiying Wu / KBIA

Unaccompanied minors in Missouri could have the right to control their own mental health with a new bill heard in the Missouri House of Representatives.

According to the United Health Foundation, about 15 out of every 100,000 Missouri teens died by suicide last year, that’s compared to only ten out of 100,000 nationally.

Missouri state representatives are looking to reduce that number. On Tuesday, House members discussed a bill which would allow unaccompanied minors to enter into their own mental health care contracts.

Mary Chant, the executive director of the Missouri Coalition of Children’s Agencies, supports the bill. She listed the problems unaccompanied minors can face.

“The rate of suicide, the rate of harm and death and violence from another, homelessness, untreated substance use…The outcomes for children who do not get mental health services are dire, extremely dire,” Chant said.

Rep. Patricia Pike, R-Adrian, sponsored the bill. She said there are three areas of focus: access, cooperation and defining which minors can utilize the possible new law.

A section of the bill would alleviate any risks for the mental health practitioner, excluding negligence. This would ensure mental health providers will not have to worry about breaking any laws by entering into a contract with a minor.

“But in the field of mental health as well as medical field, really there needs to be that safeguard, that they’re willing to take that client on,” Pike said.

Pike said the bill would improve health, education and access to opportunity for unaccompanied minors.