Changes in Statute Ease Access to Healthcare for Maine’s Homeless Youth

Changes to Maine statutes, enabling some minors to consent for health services, went into effect this year.  LD 1275, An Act to Support Access to Health Services for Homeless Youth in Maine, amended Title 22, Chapter 260 to make it easier for youth who are no longer living with or dependent upon a parent or guardian to access medical, dental, mental, and other health services.

Previously, the laws on minor consent required youth to be living independently for at least 60 days and be independent of parental support.  With no clear indication of how youth were to verify their status, it was often difficult for them to exercise this right when they needed care.

With the passage of LD1275, the 60 day requirement has been eliminated and there are specific ways that youth can demonstrate their independent status.  These include:

  1. A signed, written statement from an SAU’s homeless liaison, counselor, or school social worker affirming that the youth is living separately from parents/legal guardians and is independent of parental support;
  2. A statement from a director or designee from a governmental or nonprofit agency that provides services to homeless individuals;
  3. A statement from an attorney representing the minor on any legal matter;
  4. A copy of a protection from abuse complaint;
  5. A copy of a temporary or final order of protection against the minor’s parent or legal guardian;
  6. Proof that the youth has filed a petition for emancipation.

A health care practitioner who obtains such documentation is now immune from liability for the act of providing services to a minor, based on that assurance.

Schools should be aware that counselors, social workers, and homeless liaisons may receive requests for such letters from students when they are seeking outside care.  School based medical, dental, and mental health practitioners should be prepared to accept one of the above forms of verification in lieu of parent/guardian consent.  There is no minimum age limit connected with this right.