Outcry over high school clinic reveals deep divisions over mental health

On January evening, when the superintendent introduced the staff of Generations Family Health Center, the nonprofit health care group that was to provide services to the school, visitors looked at the Zoom screens with cheerful smiles.

The plan was for licensed therapists from Generations to work in a space on the third floor of the school. Students could be referred by teachers or family members, or could come on their own, and therapy sessions would be scheduled during school hours. Therapists would bill for insurance on a sliding scale basis, using federal funds if necessary, so there would be no cost to the school and little, if any, to the families.

Then a shiver ran through the room as council members began to bombard them with questions. The smiles of the visitors fade.

Would they advise students on birth control or abortion? (They would not give medical advice, but could discuss it if it arose.) If children were referred and did not want treatment, would they be required to do so? (No.) Would students be seen by their peers in treatment, exposing them to ridicule and stigma? (I hope not.) Could they be in therapy without their parents knowing?

In theory, yes, was the answer. By law, clinicians in Connecticut can provide six sessions of mental health treatment to minors without parental consent in a limited set of circumstances – if the minor requested treatment, it was deemed clinically necessary and if the requirement of parental notification would dissuade the minor from receiving it.

This layout is rarely used; In nearby Putnam, which has been home to a school-based mental health clinic for nine years, treating hundreds of students, no child has ever been treated without parental permission, said board member Michael Morrill. Putnam School.

But it was a major sticking point for Norm Ferron, one of Killingly’s board members, who said the arrangement would “give a student much wider access to advice without asking the parental approval, and I’m not really keen on that.

About Margie Peters

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