A bill (HR bill 3717) that is relatively under the radar and could do serious harm to both trauma survivors and people with serious mental illnesses has been introduced by Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania. As a person who has been treated within the mental health system and is a trauma survivor it has been critical to my survival to understand how ‘the system’ works.
Because there’s gridlock (to say the least) in Congress related to gun regulations, there is heightened pressure to respond to many high-profile mass shootings in the US as a mental health issue. I disagree with almost every aspect of this bill, which now has 92 cosponsors. (One of whom is my own Representative Keith Ellison.) However, particularly dangerous is a change to HIPAA to allow private patient information to be released to caregivers, including immediate family members.
This is particularly dangerous to trauma survivors because immediate family members may be those perpetrators who caused the trauma in the first place. My experience of perpetrators is that they are incredibly manipulative and charming. I could easily see some perpetrators charming physicians or psychiatrists into providing access to records. Equal HIPAA protections would be gone for one particular class of people. Not only is that discrimination but there’s huge potential for harm here.
Also worth noting is that there already exist procedures for doctors to alert authorities and potential victims when a patient is dangerous.
The following are resources to many different sides of the debate around this complex legislation.
- Mad in America
- Portland Press Herald
- Shrink Rap
- Representative Tim Murphy R-PA
- Mental Illness Policy.org."
- Treatment Advocacy Center
H.R. 3717 will
Clarifie[s] HIPAA to permit a “caregiver” to receive protected health information when a mental health care provider reasonably believes disclosure to the caregiver is necessary to protect the health, safety or welfare of the patient or the safety of another. The definition of “caregiver” includes immediate family members.
About the Bazelon Center: “The mission of the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law is to protect and advance the rights of adults and children who have mental disabilities. The Bazelon Center envisions an America where people who have mental illnesses or developmental disabilities exercise their own life choices and have access to the resources that enable them to participate fully in their communities.” ↩
Mental Illness Policy about statement found on bottom of home page: "The information on Mental Illness Policy Org. is not legal advice or medical advice. Do not rely on it. Discuss with your lawyer or medical doctor. Mental Illness Policy Org was founded in February 2011 and in order to maintain independence does not accept any donations from companies in the health care industry or government. That makes us dependent on the generosity of people who care about these issues. ↩