published Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Tennessee Senate OK’s bill that requires mental health professionals to report threats

NASHVILLE — Tennessee mental health professionals would be required to report any patient who makes a credible threat of serious bodily harm or death against “reasonably identifiable victims” to local law enforcement under a bill approved today by the Senate.

The bill, viewed as a response to mass shootings in states like Connecticut and Colorado, passed on a 33-0 vote with little debate.

Therapists’ decision to inform law enforcement would be based on their professional opinion.

Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, said the legislation is intended to “equalize” therapists’ responsibility for maintaining patient confidentiality with “their requirement to warn the public” of dangerous threats.

Information obtained would be entered into a state law enforcement information network and be checked when people purchase guns or seek to maintain handgun-carry permits.

The bill also mandates local court clerks send information about involuntary, judicial committals of patients to psychiatric hospitals. Haile said that information is now submitted quarterly. Clerks will have to pick up the pace and report the information within three days.

The bill now goes to the House.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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