Harrisburg takes on Kooth; PA state rep looks to reign in mental health company’s solicitation of students to its platform

06 March 2024- In a response to the recent actions of Kooth to solicit student participation in its online mental health platform, Rep. Mike Cabell (R-Luzerne) plans to soon introduce legislation that would prohibit such activities by third-party vendors in Pennsylvania schools.

In 2022, Pennsylvania became the first state in the country to award a $3 million contract to Kooth, a London-based online platform where students can receive mental health care without parental knowledge, involvement or consent. Kooth’s first U.S. office is in Forty Fort, Luzerne County.

“I have learned that Kooth recently visited a local school district and enticed students with cookies and candy to sign up for its online mental health program. This so-called ‘Kooth Day’ also included the promise of celebrity appearances and other perks as rewards for increased student participation,” said Cabell. “Even more questionable is that students were told they didn’t need to inform their parents about taking part in Kooth’s mental health services. Kooth’s actions are a form of bribery and it’s wrong. I believe parents have every right to be involved in all their children’s school programs and activities.”

Specifically, Cabell’s bill would prohibit mental health service companies that contract with school districts from distributing prizes for signing up for their programs.

In addition, Cabell is a co-sponsor of the following proposals that would address the issue of parental rights in Pennsylvania schools:

  • House Bill 1727, which would require parental notification and consent for student participation in school-related clubs and organizations.
  • House Bill 1804, which would require parental notification and consent for student access and use of a mental health services digital platform.
  • House Bill 1805, which would limit the scope of school guidance counseling advice to strictly academic and career goals, unless parents are involved.

“I first became aware of Kooth a year ago and had not heard anything negative about the digital program. But since then, my opinion has changed after hearing the concerns of countless parents who have contacted me about Kooth and the negative experiences of their children. I have also spoken with former Congressman Lou Barletta, who has serious concerns about the online platform,” Cabell added. “Even though Kooth is not yet in any of the districts I represent, I will continue to fight for parental rights in our schools and more transparency in the classroom.”

To view or download Cabell’s comments about Kooth, visit here.

On a related note, Cabell, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, questioned Department of Education (PDE) officials about school mental health services and parental involvement during Tuesday’s state budget hearing in Harrisburg.

To view or download a broadcast-quality video of the exchange with PDE, visit here.

Cabell is currently seeking co-sponsors for his legislation.