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June 18, 2013

Mental-health agencies eye new gun law

(Continued)

Mental-health professionals are required to use “reasonable professional judgment” when deciding whether to report someone, the Office of Mental Health says.

“It would mean a judgment call every single time,” Gillette said.

‘MORE LIKELY A VICTIM’

She understands the need to take some kind of action to prevent future shootings, she said.

“No one wants to see these horrific gun slayings that have happened in our country.”

But the “clear majority” of shootings in the United States are perpetrated by people who do not have mental illness,” she said. “I think that the person with mental illness is far more likely to be a victim than a perpetrator.”

According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, people with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be the victims of violence when compared to the general population.

In 2006, the Institute of Medicine concluded: “Although studies suggest a link between mental illnesses and violence, the contribution of people with mental illnesses to overall rates of violence is small.”

Sharon Schmidt-Twiss, director of behavioral health services at CVPH Medical Center, agrees that the clause could keep people from seeking services.

“Even one patient — that’s a terrible loss,” she said.

And it “further stigmatizes individuals,” Behavioral Health Services North Chief of Operations Peter Trout said. 

LEGAL INQUIRY

On April 1, attorney Jacqueline Kelleher at Stafford, Piller, Murnane, Kelleher and Trombley law firm in Plattsburgh submitted a formal inquiry to the Office of Mental Health regarding SAFE Act reporting.

“There’s a lack of due process” in the law, she said.

People aren’t notified that they’re being reported and aren’t given a chance to respond to the situation, Kelleher said.

“I think there’s not a problem with gun control, but it should be done fairly.”

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows for informational disclosures to be made without the patient’s consent if they are required by law, the Office of Mental Health said.

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