Bill requires disclosures aimed at deterring youth suicides

Civic Affairs

Mental health providers would retain some discretion in measure passed by Oregon House

Capitol in Salem (KOIN)

The Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group’s papers are a KOIN 6 News media partner

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Mental health providers would have to disclose relevant information to parents or guardians of minors at risk of taking their own lives — though there are exceptions — under a bill that has passed the Oregon House.

House Bill 3139 went to the Senate on a 57-1 vote Tuesday, April 13. The bill emerged from the death of Chloe Wilson of Eugene, who took her own life at age 14 on Feb. 26, 2018. She died a few days after she lobbied for more attention to mental health issues facing youths.

Oregon reported in 2018 that suicides were the second leading cause of death for youths between ages 10 and 24.

Her father, Jason Wilson, and stepmother Roxanne Wilson then spoke out for legislation in the 2019 session.

Current law already says a provider “may” disclose such information to parents or guardians to ensure planning for the safety of minors. The bill changes it to a requirement if there is an “imminent and serious threat” of minors taking their own lives, but specifies exceptions.

“As you can imagine, parents who have been through this wanted to take away all of the discretion of the providers,” Rep. Ron Noble, a Republican from McMinnville and the bill’s chief sponsor, said in floor debate.Suicide hotlines

But Noble said the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association and the Association of Oregon Community Mental Health Programs raised questions about removing all discretion from providers, who often hear from youths in confidence.

Dr. Daniel Nicoli, a child and adolescent psychiatrist from Lake Oswego, testified Feb. 22 on behalf of Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association to the House Committee on Behavioral Health:

“My colleagues and I have seen cases in a variety of settings where kids receiving a suicide risk assessment would have been harmed by their parents or other family members if they knew their child sought help. This was typically older teenagers, including LGBTQI+ teens and victims of abuse in the home.

“Any disclosure to parents needs to be done on a case-by-case basis and allow for clinical judgment and standards of care.”

The revised bill provides three exceptions to disclosure to parents or guardians: If a provider “reasonably believes” the adult has abused or neglected the minor, or subjected the minor to domestic abuse; if such disclosure could endanger the minor, or if disclosure is not in the best interest of the minor.

Noble said he asked representatives of the two groups to come back with language stronger than a “recommendation,” but still allowing for discretion.

“This is what they came back with, verbatim, what we have here today,” Noble, a retired police chief, said.

“I support the idea that professionals need to do their job without legislative interference. But the intent of this law is to encourage those professionals — who may have been afraid to exercise, or missed the opportunity to exercise, their discretion where the law allowed — to reconsider and think about what is best for the student.”

The only vote against the bill was cast by Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene, who has master’s degrees in health law and health care administration, but is not a medical provider. He said he was still concerned that the bill impinged on the judgment of mental health providers.

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