New Jersey teens can now access mental health care services without their parents’ consent.
The new law, which applies to minors 16 and older, represents the work of a group of adolescents helped bring about the measure.
Janet Wallach, who helped organize kids to support the legislation, said it will especially help the LGBTQ population, who are at greater risk for suicide and homelessness. But she said the benefits will extend to many others.
“They don’t necessarily want to talk to their parents about all issues. They tend to seek out their peers or mentors,” she said.
The group of young people she leads at the Boys & Girls Club of Hudson County — part of a national leadership and community service extension from Boys and Girls called The Keystone Club — wanted to change the old law because they believed that expanding access to counseling could help prevent teen suicide.
After research sessions with a former lobbyist and student-led presentations, the group got state Assemblymen Carmelo Garcia and Raj Mukherji to sign on as sponsors.
For Jordan T., who worked on creating the legislation, the new law hits home. His mother wouldn’t allow him to get therapy while still a minor.
“Myself, I wasn’t able to go and get help when I needed it, because my mother refused,” he said.
Jordan, who said he was lucky because he had people to talk to at the Boys & Girls Club, recognizes that not all teens have such strong support networks.
“And this law is a way to make sure that teens all around also have that,” he said. “Our teamwork was the only way we could have done this. It shows teens all over that they have voices.”
Other states, including California and Oregon, already have similar laws.