Press-Republican

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June 18, 2013

Mental-health agencies eye new gun law

PLATTSBURGH — While local mental-health providers comply with the dictates of New York’s new gun law, some feel serious concern about it.

The NY SAFE Act added section 9.46 to the state’s Mental Hygiene Law, which, as of March 16, made it mandatory that physicians, psychologists, registered nurses and licensed clinical social workers report patients who are “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.”

“I’m really concerned that people will become fearful about coming to services or maybe won’t access services ... or they may be less forthcoming with clinician,” said Sherrie Gillette, director of community services at Clinton County Mental Heath and Addiction Services.

“If the person has a mental illness, we certainly want to be able to provide services to them in a safe environment where they feel protected.”

The legislation, prompted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and other shootings, aims to take weapons out of the hands of those who, its crafters say, are most likely to perpetrate gun violence.

‘JUDGMENT CALL’

Gillette’s office is recipient of reports from Clinton County providers. 

If she agrees that the reported person is likely to engage in potentially harmful activity, she submits a secure online form to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, which determines whether the person has a firearms license.

If so, State Police notifies the county licensing official, who suspends or revokes the license and has local law enforcement remove the guns, the Office of Mental Health said.

According to the SAFE Act’s reporting stipulations, a person’s behavior must justify the need for immediate action to ensure the safety of the public and can include threats or attempts at suicide or serious self-inflicted bodily harm or homicidal or violent behavior toward others, the State Office of Mental Health says on its website.

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