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Client Alert

NEW YORK ENACTS THE NY SAFE ACT OF 2013; NEW LEGISLATION APPLICABLE TO MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS

As many of you have heard from press reports, on January 15, 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the NY Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (the “Act”) that is designed to curb gun violence particularly in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. The Act contains new provisions that are important for all healthcare providers to understand.
Section 20 of the Act adds a new Section 9.46 to the Mental Hygiene Law. As drafted, this new section obligates mental health professionals in New York -- defined to include physicians, psychologists, registered nurses, and licensed clinical social workers -- to make reports to the Director of Community Services or its designee about individuals under treatment whom they believe, in the exercise of their reasonable professional judgment, are likely to engage in conduct that may result in serious harm to themselves or others. Such reports are required to be made “as soon as practicable.”

As stated in the legislative history, the purpose of this Section is for the local mental health officials to make a determination as to whether there is a serious threat posed by these individuals that would warrant a report made to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to revoke any gun permits that these individuals may have, and to place these individuals on a registry that prevents them from obtaining gun permits in the future.

This requirement is scheduled to take effect March 16, 2013. Presumably, before that time, the Office of Mental Health will be issuing regulations as to the means and the matter of these reports. The Act, however, provides that the information reported to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is to be limited to names and other non-clinical identifying information.

The new provisions also provide some protection for the decision-making of mental health professionals. A mental health professional is not required to act if, in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment, such action would endanger the mental health professional or increase the danger to a potential victim or victims. Furthermore, the decision to report (or not report) to the Director of Community Services, when made "reasonably and in good faith," shall not be the basis for any civil or criminal liability of the mental health professional.

On another note, the Act also modifies Kendra’s law, the assisted outpatient treatment law, by extending the initial duration of an outpatient treatment order from six months to one year and requiring a review by the appropriate mental health director before the expiration of the outpatient treatment order.

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As more information becomes known about these new procedures, we will continue to provide you with updates.

In the meantime, please direct any questions to the GW Attorney to whom you ordinarily speak. Click Here to print this alert.

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