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Youth Behavioral Health

Frequently Asked Questions

The behavioral health system can be confusing. This page answers questions that youth and their families often ask.

​Behavioral health care includes substance use disorder treatment and mental health treatment, including treatment to teach or support positive behaviors and build healthy relationships.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines behavioral health​ as:

  • The promotion of mental health, resilience, and wellbeing;
  • The treatment of mental and substance use disorders; and
  • The support of those who experience and/or are in recovery from these conditions. This includes supporting their families and communities.

​The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available nationwide 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

  • You can call or text 988 in English or Spanish.
  • When you call or text 988, you can talk about your situation and learn how to get help near you. 

​Ask your insurance company or coordinated care organization (CCO). They can:

  • Give you a list of providers who work with them.
  • Tell you the providers' specialties. These could be working with children or adolescents, family therapy, working with LGBTQ people, culturally specific services, and more.

​If you have private insurance, your insurance company will tell you about any copayments that you might need to pay. 

​Your insurance company or CCO will decide if the care is medically necessary and medically appropriate. To do this, they will:

  • Ask about your (or your child's) needs and the current situation.
  • Work with the behavioral health provider to find the right services for you (or your child).
  • Approve the lowest level of care to meet your (or your child's) needs. This means care that least disrupts to your life (or your child's life). 

Care will start with outpatient therapy or in-home services. Ask your insurance company or CCO if you think you (or your child) needs:

  • More intensive services, such as day treatment or residential care.
  • Less intensive services, such as moving from residential care to outpatient care.

​It is always best to have everyone in the family agree about the care the child needs. This way your provider can build the treatment plan with everyone's needs and opinions in mind. 

However, Oregon law does allow parents/guardians to consent to services for youth under age 18. They can do this without the youth's consent. This is usually allowed when:

  • Young children may not understand the services enough to give consent, or
  • Youth need more intensive services such as day treatment or residential care for their safety or their family's safety. In Oregon, youth cannot sign themselves out of those services on their own.

​Yes. Oregon Administrative Rules state that minors can consent to their own care if they are:

  • Under age 18 and lawfully married,
  • Age 16 or older and legally emancipated by the court, or
  • Age 14 or older for outpatient services only. 

Oregon also has rules for youth who start outpatient therapy on their own. They must involve their family members before therapy ends unless this isn't safe for the youth or family. 

  • ​​Many therapists interpret that rule differently. Youth should ask their therapist about their policies. 
  • For all youth, it is best to involve their family, even if therapy is sometimes uncomfortable. No one lives in a vacuum. It is important for everyone to recognize their role in problems and work to improve things as a family.

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has created a helpful guide about minor consent fo​​​r health care services. This may also help answer youth and parent questions.

​Youth or Family Peer Support Specialists can help. They are trained and certified to help support other young people or their family members. They can share their experiences with the behavioral health system. They can also help you navigate it. Learn more on OHA's Family Supports page.

​According to Oregon Administrative Rule 309-019-0105(67)​, "“family" means the youth's:

  • Biological or legal parents,
  • Siblings,
  • Other relatives,
  • Foster parents,
  • Legal guardians,
  • Spouse,
  • Domestic partner,
  • Caregivers, and
  • Other primary relations whether by blood, adoption, or legal or social relationships.

“Family" also means anyone the youth considers an important natural, formal, or informal support. These definitions are to include all people that a youth feels close to and supported by. 

Research shows that the most powerful protective factors for all people are connection and belonging. Acceptance strongly protects against suicidal thought, especially for LGBTQ youth and young adults. This is true whether the accepting family members or other trusted adults are at home, part of a chosen family, or at school. 

​It can sometimes feel hard to advocate for yourself in a room full of people using words you may not understand. Keep in mind that as a young person or their family member, you are the most important person in the room. You also have rights! Oregon Administrative Rule 309-019-0115 outlines your rights.​

​The treatment provider holds mental health and substance use treatment records. Youth and their legal guardians have a right to access these records. To do this, ask the provider's records department. 

Under Oregon law:

​Behavioral health treatment can be hard. It may not always feel good. The provider may recommend pushing through hard topics to create long-lasting change. If you are not satisfied with your (or your child's) care, first talk with your provider. They may be able to:

  • Talk with you about other ways they can work with you (or your child).
  • Explain why it's important to stick with your (or your child's) current treatment plan. 

If you still cannot agree about the best way to work together, you have the right to ask for a new provider. 

You can also file a complaint.

  • Behavioral health providers must have a process to manage complaints.
  • You can also share any complaints or concerns with your insurance company, CCO or OHA.

Need Help?

To learn more or ask other questions, please feel free to:

  • Email us or
  • Join us Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. for Time for Families. This is a weekly drop-in discussion time for parents, caregivers, and family members.