Contrary to what some are claiming, the 2022 “Mental Health Coordinators” law recently passed is in fact a NEW program for the state of Alabama with NEW positions created and NEW objectives. (Hint: You do not need to pass a new law and designate new taxpayer funding for a program that already exists.). However, mental health coordinators are just now beginning their training across Alabama, so when school counselors, administrators and superintendents claim “that nothing has changed” technically it is true, but also grossly misleading.
In fact, if you read the bill, it states that things will almost constantly be changing once these coordinators are placed in schools. Per HB123, mental health coordinators will be tasked with administering and submitting an assessment to the Alabama Department of Mental Health which “shall document the status of mental health for the entire school system and allow the local board of education to engage in a quality improvement process to improve the provision of mental health resources to students within the school system.”
Unfortunately, Alabama Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter removed the parent opt-in option for students 14-18 based on a 1970’s law giving minors 14 and over the right to make medical decisions without parental consent.
The law states: “Any minor who is 14 years of age or older, or has graduated from high school, or is married, or having been married is divorced, or is pregnant, may give effective consent to any legally authorized medical, dental, health, or mental health services for himself or herself (Code of Alabama, Section 22-8-4).
Though the intention of the legislature was to have all 14-18 year old students automatically enrolled in school based mental health services, based on the above code, it stands to reason that 14-18 years may not only ACCEPT mental health services from the government, but also DENY mental health services from the government.
Below is a letter which your child can print, sign and place on file with the school explaining their right to make treatment decisions on a case by case basis based on Alabama code Section 22-8-4.
Feel free to copy and paste the text in the letter below and adapt as your student sees fit.
To Whom it May Concern:
Alabama House Bill 123, the “Mental Health Coordinator” law, allows Alabama schools to offer expanded mental health services to myself and other students. In addition, Alabama Code §22-8-4 gives me the right to consent to any of these health services offered. Because Alabama Code §22-8-4 specifically states that I have a right to consent, the right to deny my consent is implied.
Therefore, I am formally denying my consent to participate in school health programs unless and until I receive, in writing, a notice of the source and content of any and all pre-planned health services provided by this school no less than 24 hours before the service is scheduled to commence. This request for prior notification is necessary to provide me with an opportunity to review the value of the proposed service and make an informed decision regarding my consent to participate based on Alabama law.
To clarify, there should be no assumption of consent to participate in any of the health services offered by this school, for any reason, at any time. Please place this letter in my file for future reference.