Advocates Weigh In On Mental Health Provision

1:01 AM, Jan 17, 2013   |    comments
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Photo: AP

BUFFALO, N.Y. - The 2nd amendment is not the only debate revolving around New York State's tough new gun laws. The mental health provision has produced it's share of talk as well.

The provision requires physicians, nurses and clinical social workers to alert county health officials if a mental health patient is likely to harm themselves or others. Law enforcement officials are then called in to seize any firearm owned by the patient. If the patient does not own any firearm, their name is then placed on a state-wide database making them ineligible to purchase a gun in the future.

Some health care providers fear that the legislation, while intending to get people the help they need, might instead deter patients from seeking care or fully disclosing their condition. Ken Houseknecht, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Erie County is one who says that this could add to the stigma that already exists around mental illness. Houseknecht says "you might accomplish the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish". Houseknecht says that he would have preferred that mental health and illness issues were addressed separately from gun control legislation. 

On the other side of the debate is DJ Jaffe, the Executive Director of Mental Illness Policy Org. Jaffe says that the fears that patients may avoid treatment because of the new law are unfounded. Jaffe likes the legislation, saying "the last thing we'd want is to know someone is mentally ill, know someone is dangerous and do nothing about it."

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