Local mental health experts concerned over SAFE act provision
Posted at: 03/18/2013 5:28 PM
By: Joangel Concepcion | WHEC.com
More and more provisions are going into effect as part of the new gun law in New York State. On Saturday, new rules that deal with gun sales and mental health background checks went into effect.
This provision requires mental health professionals to report any patient they believe that could cause harm to themselves or others. That information will be checked against the new gun registration database. If it is found the patient owns a registered gun, the license will be suspended and police will be authorized to take the gun.
News10NBC found out the National Veterans Administration is refusing to turn this type of information over, citing doctor patient confidentiality. News10NBC wanted to know how local mental health experts felt about this provision.
County officials and gun shop owners say they feel they are left in the dark about what to do and a lot of medical health professionals say they feel that way.
Maggie Brooks, Monroe County Executive, said, “This is going to be a deterrent for people to be honest about their thoughts, their feelings, what they are going through personally.”
News10NBC heard Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks call one of the new provisions of the SAFE Act a "barrier" for patients to get the care they need.
At the University of Rochester Medical Center, mental health experts know they will have more requirements, but they say it won't change how they treat their patients.
Eric Caine said, “Your doctor/patient confidentiality is intended to keep you safe but it's certainly not intended for you to harm someone else.”
Eric Caine is the chair of the Department of Psychiatry. He says clinicians have always reported dangerous behavior, but he's not sure how the new provisions will benefit mental health patients.
Caine said, “I've always wanted to add to the quality of people's lives and I’m not sure it will. I don't know the answer to that yet. Perhaps it will, but that's going to be longer term question. I'm very concerned that it won't.”
Caine says the problem is the new provision is not detailed enough to guide clinicians. They need to know exactly what is reportable and what isn't.
Caine said, “This was done in a very sudden way without a whole lot of public discussion. So what we're getting now is a whole lot of public discussion about clarifying things you usually get before the legislation is passed.”
News10NBC's Joangel Concepcion said, “What message do you have for people that may be scared to come forward because they feel that they are going to be reported and a lot of people think it's not anybody's business.”
Caine said, “Well I know people think it's not anybody's business but I'd rather see them alive next week, next month, next year. To me, saving lives is the most important thing.”
The VA will not comply with state's SAFE Act. In a statement they wrote, “Federal laws safeguarding the confidentiality of veterans' treatment records do not authorize VA mental-health professionals to comply with this NY state law. Under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal laws take precedence over conflicting state and local laws.”
News10NBC tried to contact local lawmakers to ask if they expect changes to this SAFE Act provision. When we get their answers will bring them to you.