Homeless youth across the nation experience many common systemic challenges. Minors, in particular, are likely to face significant barriers accessing health and mental health services, obtaining government-issued identification cards and birth certificates, and enrolling in school. Homeless youth are also more likely to encounter the juvenile or criminal justice systems. All of these are obstacles to exiting homelessness and achieving a stable living arrangement.
To address some of these challenges, the Missouri General Assembly passed HB 1414 in 2020. This omnibus bill, carried by Representative Sheila Solon (R), passed with bipartisan support. Representative Solon describes the legislation as “one of the most impactful bills” passed in her eight years in the legislature. It was “a bipartisan effort, where we worked together to get it passed and help the children of our state. A big moment for all of us. Everyone was very proud.”
The bill allows unaccompanied youth to receive one copy of their birth record, free of charge, without the consent or signature of a parent or guardian. It also extends Medicaid benefits for youth experiencing homelessness to age 26 and allows homeless youth to contract for and obtain mental health services without the express consent of a parent or guardian. Implied consent can be verified by professionals involved in the youth’s life, including a service provider, local education agency liaison or licensed attorney representing the youth.
Before HB1414 was passed, homeless youth in Missouri were permitted, under Missouri law (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 431.056), to contract for housing, employment, purchase of an automobile, receipt of a student loan, admission to high school or postsecondary school, medical care, establishing a bank account, admission to a shelter for victims of domestic violence, admission to a rape crisis center, and to receive services as a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. HB 1414 expands this statute to include contracting for mental health services. Also according to Missouri law (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 167.020), homeless children and youth in Missouri are not required to meet residency requirements when registering for school. These extended contracting rights enable youth to receive services and documents needed to take care of themselves and move closer to achieving permanency and stability.