2021 Maryland General Assembly Update Week Six: Expanding Telehealth, Fighting for Shore Farm Families, and Protecting Children
More and more bills are making their way out of committees and on to the Senate Floor for lively debate and discussion during session. Senator Mary Beth Carozza had hearings on her legislation to expand access to alcohol and drug counseling through telehealth and to provide economic relief for Shore farm families. During a floor debate Senator Carozza spoke out against legislation to lower the age from 16 to 12 years old for a minor to give informed consent, without parental knowledge, for mental health services.
EXPANDING ACCESS TO ALCOHOL AND DRUG COUNSELING
The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 646— Alcohol and Drug Counseling - Alcohol and Drug Trainees - Practice Through Telehealth on Tuesday, February 16.
“Access to alcohol and drug counseling through telehealth is increasingly important especially given the devastating data from the Maryland Health Department and Opioid Operational Command Center. There were 2,025 overdose deaths in Maryland in the first three quarters of 2020. That is a 12 percent increase from the same period in 2019…These numbers make it clear that Maryland cannot let up in our efforts to provide the needed counseling services and treatment to those with alcohol and drug addictions. Senate Bill 646 would ensure that alcohol and drug trainees can continue to provide telehealth services after the COVID-19 pandemic,” testified Carozza.
Senate Bill 646 would permit the permanent allowance of alcohol and drug trainees (ADTs) to provide services via telehealth after the current public health emergency declarations are lifted.
Last spring, the Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists recommended that alcohol and drug trainees – or ADTs – be allowed to provide services via telehealth. This was a life-saving measure as ADTs represent 40 percent of the overall workforce at the certified level.
This legislation (SB 646) has the support of over 25 organizations and treatment providers including the Maryland Department of Health Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists, the Maryland Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, the Mental Health Association of Maryland, and local support from Mid Shore Behavioral Health, Inc. and the Eastern Shore Behavioral Health Coalition in Easton, and Peninsula Mental Health and Addiction Services and Hudson Behavioral Health in Salisbury.
SUPPORTING OUR SHORE FARM FAMILIES
The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the bipartisan Senate Bill 502—Labor and Employment - Maryland Wage and Hour Law - Agricultural Stands, Retail Farms, and Farmers' Markets on Thursday, February 18.
“Senate Bill 502 simply clarifies the current agricultural exemption to the Maryland Wage and Hour Law to include those employed at an agricultural stand, retail farm or farmers’ market that primarily sells agricultural products that the employer has produced,” Senator Carozza testified, noting that her bill was one of the initiatives included in the bipartisan Senate Small Business Workgroup’s legislative package unveiled last session and that the late former Senate President, Senator Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr., testified with her in strong support of the bill at last year’s hearing.
The current Maryland Wage and Hour Agricultural Exemption exempts those employed by an employer who is engaged in the processing of perishable food items, those employed in agriculture if the employer used no more than 500 agricultural-worker days per quarter during the preceding year, those engaged primarily in the range production of livestock, employed as a hand-harvest laborer or is paid on a piece-rate basis.
Senate Bill 502 clarifies the Agricultural Exemption in the current Maryland Wage and Hour Law by including those employed at an agricultural stand by including a retail farm or a farmers’ market that primarily sells at retail perishable or seasonal fresh fruits, vegetables, or horticultural commodities that the employer has produced.
Senate Bill 502 has the support of the Maryland Farm Bureau and local Chambers of Commerce who identified the gap with the law and worked with lawmakers to craft a narrow, targeted bill to simply clarify the agricultural exemption.
CAROZZA SPEAKS OUT AGAINST BILL LOWERING MENTAL HEALTH CONSENT TO AGE 12
Senator Mary Beth Carozza spoke out and voted against legislation to lower the age from 16 to 12 years old for a minor to give informed consent, without parental knowledge, for mental health services.
Senate Bill 41—Mental Health and Emotional Disorders—Consent alters the minimum age for consent from 16 years to 12 years, thus allowing 12-year-olds, who have been determined by a health care provider to be mature and capable of giving informed consent, to consent to consultation, diagnosis, and certain treatment of a mental or emotional disorder by a health care provider or clinic, without parental knowledge or involvement.
Senator Carozza highlighted major opposition from parents and health care providers during the Senate Floor debate on SB 41. “Many parents and medical experts agree that children are simply not able to safely make medical decisions without their parents or guardians, that the legislation is ambiguous and that it lacks safeguards to protect children consenting to mental health services,” said Carozza.
In addition, Carozza mentioned that some parents were concerned about who would be paying for the cost of the consultation, diagnosis, and treatment provided to the minor and that minors may not be able to vet the professional that they are seeing to ensure quality care. Other concerns were raised about the possibility of schools having to provide these services to minors and that children could be consenting to treatment without understanding the risks, benefits, or alternatives.
“Consenting to a serious mental health diagnosis can follow a child around for their entire life,” Carozza added. “These mental health diagnoses can impact future opportunities for these children, such as joining the military.”
Senator Carozza supported an amendment offered by Minority Leader Simonaire that would hold health care providers liable and accountable if a mistake is made in a youth mental health diagnosis and treatment made without parental consent.
“We need to make sure there are safeguards in place to protect our youth when it comes to their consenting without parental involvement, which is why I voted for Senator Simonaire’s liability amendment,” said Carozza.
Senate Bill 41 passed the Senate on Friday, February 19 by a vote of 31-16 with bipartisan opposition. Senator Carozza voted against Senate Bill 41.
SHORE VIRTUAL VISITORS
Senator Carozza virtually met with constituents on their respective advocacy days. This included National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) supporters advocating for behavioral health services, and Ocean City Development Corporation Executive Director Glenn Irwin and Rural Maryland Council Executive Director Charlotte Davis to discuss community legacy projects and rural broadband expansion. In addition, Coastal Hospice’s Alane Capen presented to the Eastern Shore Delegation on February 19th.