Mental Health & Gun Control

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Some mental health experts say New York's gun control law might interfere with treatment of potentially dangerous people and even discourage them from seeking help.

One provision would require therapists and doctors to tell government authorities if they believe a patient is likely to harm himself or others.

That could lead to revoking a patient's gun permit and seizing the gun.

Dr. Paul Appelbaum, director of law, ethics and psychiatry at Columbia University, said that provision might discourage people from revealing thoughts of harm to a therapist, or even from seeking treatment at all.

Dr. Mark Olfson, a psychiatry professor at Columbia, said if the law is crudely applied, it could erode the trust patients have in their doctors which is needed for effective care.

Locally, Dr. Fahd Rawra, a psychiatrist at Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown, says the bill could help protect patients and the general public.

"If we're reporting to a government authority, responsible authority, of our concerns, which may benefit, potentially avoid bad outcome, I feel that it's something that should be allowed," he said.

Under the new law, if a mental health professional decides a patient is likely to harm himself or others, the professional has to report it to the government.

That could lead to the patient's gun permit being revoked, or his weapons seized.

Roger Ambrose, director of Jefferson County Community Services, says the bill would help keep patients and the general public safe.

"I think we're really talking about a small percentage of individuals, who probably at the time that they are being reported, would be better off not having access to weapons," he said.

The risk is that people who need help might not get it because they're afraid of being turned in.

At least one mental health expert told the Associated Press he expects mental health providers will get around the new law by simply ignoring it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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