|Rep. Wallace's Parental Notification Bill Gets Unanimous Committee Approval
On Monday, February 13, the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse unanimously approved a bill filed by state Representative Brian Wallace (D- South Boston), which would mandate hospital emergency rooms to immediately notify parents when their child, who is under eighteen years of age, is treated for a non-fatal overdose. Presently, according to Rep Wallace, there is no such parental notification requirement on the books.
Wallace told the committee, “It’s unfortunate that I have to even be filing a bill like this, but the reality is that I do. There is no state requirement that mandates hospitals to notify parents or guardians when their son or daughter has overdosed. I can tell you that the minor isn’t going to go home and say, ‘hey ma you got twenty bucks I want to go to the movies tonight, and oh ya I overdosed this afternoon.’ Parents are finding out that their kids have overdosed from neighbors or siblings or God forbid, at their funerals, and that isn’t right.”
At the hearing Wallace added an amendment which would also require that when hospitals notify parents about their sons’ or daughters’ non-fatal overdose they also put them in touch with substance abuse counselors and treatment facilities. “If parents don’t know their kids are on drugs, how can they get them help?” Wallace asked. One parent related a story to Representative Wallace about her minor son who overdosed twice in the same day. “Both times he was treated and released,” Wallace told the committee. It wasn’t until later that day, when he was hit by a car, that the parents found out he had been treated for the two overdoses. If that isn’t a cry for help, what is? That boy, with his parent’s involvement sought help and is doing fine right now.”
Hospital officials say they support the bill’s intent, but have not yet taken a position on it. Paul Wingle, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said, “Officials want to ensure the additional notification would not deter teenagers from seeking treatment, for fear of their parents finding out. To which Rep Wallace replied, “While I welcome even a modicum of support from the Mass Hospital Association, I am totally bewildered by their naivety. Not deter teenagers from seeking treatment? These are kids who are brought into emergency rooms unconscious and near death. They don’t seek treatment, it seeks them,” Wallace stated.