Legislator pushes bills to help homeless youth in Oklahoma City
An Oklahoma legislator is working with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to slash red tape that can prevent unaccompanied homeless youth from receiving medical care due to a lack of parental consent.
In some cases, state law requires parental consent for a minor to seek medical treatment or to receive identifying documents a person may need to get a job.
Through a public-private partnership, DHS wants to be able to offer parental consent for homeless youth receiving help from various Oklahoma City nonprofits.
Legislators would have to change state law for the state agency to be able to serve in that role. That’s where Rep. Chelsey Branham, D-The Village, comes in.
She filed legislation last year to allow DHS to provide consent for some homeless minors. House Bill 2331 will carry over to the legislative session that begins Feb. 3. Branham has also filed new legislation to that effect.
The legislation aims to allow DHS help children who are not in the state’s foster care system.
“If you have kids at home, think about all of the forms you have to sign for your kid to be able to access things in going to the doctor, in getting documents filled at school, in accessing mental health services,” she said.
Jennifer Goodrich, the president and CEO of Pivot, a local nonprofit that helps homeless youth, said state law does not allow medical service providers to treat minors without consent from a parent or guardian. Although, many medical providers contacted by Pivot said they don’t follow that rule, Goodrich said it's an example of how state law can unintentionally get in the way.
The 2019 Point in Time count identified 85 unaccompanied homeless youth in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City Public Schools estimated roughly 1,500 students were experiencing homelessness last fall, Branham said.