⚫ NJ currently permits minors as young as 16 to seek out mental health treatment

⚫ There's a push to lower the minimum age

⚫ Opponents claim the proposal puts a dent in the rights of parents

New Jersey lawmakers are interfering with the role of parents, according to critics of a proposed law that has already received the green light from a panel of legislators.

Right now in New Jersey, minors as young as 16 are legally permitted to seek in-person mental health counseling without consent from a parent or guardian.

Under a bill that was the focus of two hours of debate on Thursday, the minimum age would be lowered to 14.

Mary Abrams, senior health policy analyst for the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, said while its best to have parents heavily involved in their kids' lives and able to pick up on potential mental health issues, that's not a possibility in all families.

And in some cases, she said, a parent may be the root of a child's issues for which they'd like to receive temporary outpatient treatment.

"In New Jersey and across the nation, we are currently experiencing — and have been for some time — a teen mental health crisis, as well as an ongoing suicide crisis," Abrams said.

Abrams insisted that outpatient behavioral health care should be made available to anyone who seeks it out. Outlets for help over the phone already exist — New Jersey's own 2ndFloor Youth Helpline, for example, offers 24/7 care to individuals aged 10 to 24.

Opposition to lowering the age

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Sen. Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson, cleared the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee by a vote of 5 to 1, with one abstention and one no-vote.

Several parents and groups voiced their opposition to the bill before the vote.

Gregory Quinlan, president of The Center for Garden State Families, criticized the proposal as "another instrument to advance the special rights" of LGBTQ individuals.

"This is a grooming bill to codify the fraud of alternative sexual identities," Quinlan told the Senate panel. "These identities are an ever-growing contagion of groomed children to question the scientific, obvious reality that there are only two genders."

Former state Sen. Ed Durr testified in opposition of the bill — as a parent — calling it horrible, ridiculous, and ill-conceived.

"The parents, guardians should always be involved in all decisions made about their children and their welfare," Durr said.

In order to become law, the measure would need to clear the full Senate and full Assembly, and then be signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

In 2017, then-Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law allowing minors as young as 16 to seek mental health treatment without consent. He had vetoed the original measure that did not specify a minimum age.

A separate bill to bring the minimum permitted age down to 13 was scrapped on Thursday in favor of S1188.

Report a correction | Contact our newsroom

Don't get fooled: Here's 24 scam texts I received in just one month

Although some may be humorous, others appear legit. Here are 24 texts I received in just one month's time, as well as one I'm surprised I never got.

Spam texts are listed in the same order that was received.

Gallery Credit: Mike Brant

LOOK: Here's how much grocery shopping now costs in the U.S.

The average cost of groceries for one person per month in 2023 was around $337. But how does your state compare? Do you pay more, or less? Data compiled by Zippia takes a look at the average monthly grocery bill per person in all 50 states. States are listed from least expensive to most expensive and are rounded up to the nearest dollar.

Gallery Credit: Mike Brant

More From Cat Country 107.3