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Students in Colorado Can Now Get Mental Health Treatment Without Parental Consent Except in Denver

Student receiving mental health treatment without parental consent

The suicide of a 15-year-old last year in Colorado has led to a new surge of legislation aimed at helping improve access to mental health resources for depression and anxiety. Jack Padilla died by suicide in February 2019 when he was bullied by other students at Cherry Creek High School, located in the suburbs of Denver.

Padilla’s family wanted to speak out about his suicide and work to get help for other young people like him, including by boosting access to youth mental health services.

The lobbying of Padilla’s family played a part in getting HB1120 passed last year, sponsored by Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet. According to the legislation, which aims to help provide mental health help for middle school students and high school students, kids as young as 12 can obtain psychotherapy services without the consent of their parent or guardian. Prior to the passing of the bill, only minors 15 years of age or older could seek services from a therapist without parental consent.

Michaelson Jenet had tried for two legislative sessions to get the bill passed to help increase access to mental health services for middle school students, but lawmakers rejected the measures. Republican legislators, in their opposition, said the bill removed parental authority.

 There has been confusion with regard to the Colorado age of consent for mental health treatment. For example, the Denver Public Schools system hasn’t implemented the provisions of the bill. In Denver, if you’re under the age of 18, you still need parental permission to get mental health services.

Youth Suicide Statistics

Suicide was the top cause of death for young people in Colorado between 2013 and 2017. Colorado also had the highest increase in its teen suicide rate in the country since 2016, according to a report by the United Health Foundation. The suicide rate among teens in Colorado went up 58% between 2016 and 2019. Nationwide the teen suicide rate has increased 25%, and Colorado’s rate is almost double the nationwide rate.

The same report found that ½ of young people between the ages of three and 17 didn’t get necessary mental health counseling.

The report highlights that in the face of increasing rates of teen suicide in Colorado, more needs to be done in terms of teen suicide prevention.

Complications of the Teen Mental Health Bill

The changes in the Colorado age of consent for mental health treatment isn’t without controversy and criticism. For example, some feel that parents may be completely unaware of what their child is going through, which is problematic since health care providers tend to feel it’s important that parents are involved as soon as possible.

Susan Marine lost two children to suicide, and she’s someone who has spoken out about the potential issues with the legislation. She believes mental health care workers should reach out to parents after they have a few confidential sessions with a child.

Others go even further in their criticism as far as mental health programs in schools and children’s ability to access them without parental consult. Critics feel kids don’t have the cognitive ability to make such decisions, and confidential counseling could infringe on parents’ constitutional rights.

Some stipulations are part of the youth mental health treatment bill. One is that a licensed mental health provider or social worker has to speak to the student about how important it is to let their parents know what’s going on. They also have to tell parents if a student communicates an imminent threat to complete suicide.

If you’d like to learn more about youth mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment, reach out to Next Generation Village today.


The National Law Review. “Colorado Lowers Age of Consent for Psychotherapy Services to 12 Year Olds.” July 16, 2019. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Brundin, Jenny. “Students in Many Parts of Colorado Can Now Get Mental Health Treatment Without Parental Permission. But Not in Denver.” CPR News, January 20, 2020. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Whaley, Monte. “Colorado teen’s suicide spurs mental health legislation.” State of Reform, February 17, 2020. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Sanathanam, Laura. “Youth suicide rates are on the rise in the U.S.” PBS News Hour, October 18, 2019. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Daley, John. “The Rate of Teen Suicide in Colorado Increased by 58% in 3 Years, Making It the Cause of 1 in 5 Adolescent Deaths.” CPR News, September 17, 2019. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Fish, Sandra. “Younger Colorado students seek access to menta health care, without parental permission.” Chalkbeat, February 20, 2019. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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