Assembly Bill No. 2328: Pending Legislation Would Reduce the Age of Consent for Behavioral Health Care.

By: Cristina N. Hyde, JD

Every year, during the month of May, there is a national movement to raise awareness around mental health and fight the stigma associated with reaching out for mental health care.  Doing so, has never been as important as it is now, in the wake of the COVID-19, pandemic where experts continue to warn us that our children’s mental health is in crises.  With that in mind, on February 7, 2022, Assembly Bill No. 2328 (A2328) was introduced, seeking to reduce the age of consent for children seeking mental health services.

Although A2328 remains at the beginning of its legislative journey, if passed, it would amend current law to lower the age requirement for a minor to obtain treatment for mental illness or emotional disorders.  Currently, a minor under 16 years of age must obtain parental consent for care.  A2328 would have New Jersey join 5 other states who currently allow kids to seek mental health care, without parental consent, at the age of 13.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 6 of our nation’s children, ages 6-17, experience a mental health disorder each year.  NAMI also reports that half of all mental illness begins by age 14.  Alarmingly, suicide is cited as the second leading cause of death among our children ages 10-14.

If passed, the new law would align access to care with these statistically significant ages.  However, the road to the governor’s desk will likely involve significant debate and legal challenges focusing on parental rights.

Campanella Law Office will be monitoring A2328’s journey through the legislative process and will post updates as necessary. Meanwhile, if you or a loved one is in crises, please know that help is available, and you do not have to struggle alone.  You can call or text the 988 Suicide and Crises Lifeline; providing confidential support to anyone in emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Live Chat is also available.

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