Father who lost daughter to drug addiction pushes for more parental control of teen treatment

click to enlarge Father who lost daughter to drug addiction pushes for more parental control of teen treatment
Meghan Kirk
Scott Meyers reads the letter his daughter wrote him after her first night in rehab.

Four years ago this month, Rachel Meyers died of a heroin overdose at 18 years old, despite her father's attempts to get her help for her addiction.

"I told them, 'She's trying to kill herself. Look, here's the heroin, here are the needles filled with heroin ... but they wouldn't take her unless she agreed," he told the Inlander in 2015.

It's an issue gaining more attention now in Washington state, as lawmakers appear closer to amending state law to make it easier for parents to get treatment for teens even if the teens don't want it. Yesterday, House Bill 1874, which would allow parents to get outpatient mental health or substance use treatment for nonconsenting teens for three months, passed out of the House on an 89-8 vote.
But for Scott Meyers, father of Rachel Meyers, that still doesn't do enough. Meyers has pushed for a bill that would go beyond outpatient treatment. Dubbed "Rachel's Law," it would have allowed a parent or guardian to admit a minor child into an approved substance use disorder treatment program and keep them there for 14 days without their consent. However, the bill already died in the Legislature without receiving a hearing.

"I just really want to get the awareness out there and get people to support this thing," Meyers says. "Because there's kids dying."

Meyers says he does support the bill that passed out of the House yesterday, should the Senate pass it too. But he doubts outpatient treatment would have helped his daughter years ago. And even if HB 1874 passes, teens could only be committed to inpatient treatment against their will if it can be proven they are a threat to themselves or others — something Meyers had a difficult time proving.

"The ideal protocol would be detox, inpatient, and then outpatient or a halfway house," Meyers says.

Rachel's Law only had two sponsors: Rep. Matt Shea and Rep. Bob McCaslin, both Republicans from Spokane Valley. Both were among the eight representatives to vote against the teen mental health bill that passed out of the House yesterday.

As the Inlander covered in this week's paper, the law Shea and McCaslin voted against was the result of a group of stakeholders that the Legislature tasked last year with providing recommendations regarding teen behavioral health. Initially, it was Democrats skeptical of allowing parents to initiate treatment for teens, because there are still cases when it can be beneficial for teens to have power of consent. Parents like Peggy Dolane, who was part of the group recommending the changes, say the bill is a fair compromise for all the stakeholders, including providers and youth advocates.

But Meyers says even if that passed out of the Legislature, he still would advocate for more parental control over teen behavioral health.

"I want people to know that it can happen to your daughter," Meyers says. 

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About The Author

Wilson Criscione

Wilson Criscione is the Inlander’s news editor. Aside from writing and editing investigative news stories, he enjoys hiking, watching basketball and spending time with his wife and cat.