Confidentiality in school-based health centers |

Confidentiality in school-based health centers

What services can minor students self-consent for?

Staff work inside the new Mountain Family Health school-based health center at Glenwood Springs High School.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

After Glenwood Springs High School opened a school-based health center this fall, questions and concerns began to swirl.

Operated by Mountain Family Health Centers, it offers a three-legged treatment location within school walls to provide limited dental, behavioral and mental care. The new center is already the fourth within the Roaring Fork School District and fifth operated by Mountain Family. Still, its opening raised questions from some in the community, including around self-consenting for care.

“Because of logistical challenges related to opening and expanding school-based health centers during the pandemic, we have heard some confusion regarding what services are offered, when they are available and how to navigate enrollment processes,” said Roaring Fork School District Chief of Student and Family Services Anna Cole.

School-based health centers are governed by health care regulations, not school district policies. The district’s Board of Education updated a policy in October entitled “Administering Medications to Students,” which requires written legal guardian consent before any medication can be given. Mountain Family is a separate entity from the schools in which they operate, exempting them from these rules and opening the door to confidential care under federal and state laws.

“We’re independent, and we’re under the regulations that govern health care, not the schools,” Mountain Family Health Centers Director of Operations Marija Weeden said.

Many medications and treatments are off the table for minor patient confidentiality, but some are still available.

Colorado law allows for people of any age to self-consent with full HIPAA privacy protection for contraception and prenatal, delivery and postnatal care.

The new school-based health center by Mountain Family Health inside Glenwood Springs High School.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Victims of sexual assault and other sexual offenses can self-consent, but the treating physician must make “a reasonable effort” to notify the guardian.

Unemancipated minors can also self-consent for sexually transmitted infection treatment, diagnosis and prevention and drug and alcohol abuse treatment. Emancipated or legally married minors over the age of 14 can self-consent for all services provided by Mountain Family.

Minors over the age of 11 can self-consent for behavioral health treatment at Mountain Family facilities.

Counseling services are available for a variety of needs, but parental notification is legally required once that becomes medical treatment.

Weeden also said that those conversations lead to the patient being directed toward community resources outside Mountain Family. In the case of gender affirmation treatment, patients are directed to places like TRUE Center for Gender Diversity at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“We are actively working to strengthen consistency, communication and streamline access to services,” Cole said. “Mountain Family is our regional Federally Qualified Health Center; they share our commitment to ensuring children and families have access to the community resources and services needed to be successful learners in school.”

Weeden asked that concerns about services provided and confidentiality at school-based health centers be directed to Connie Ruiz at

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