Mental health professionals have concerns over new gun law

Posted at: 02/28/2013 4:41 PM
Updated at: 02/28/2013 5:31 PM
By: Ray Levato

There's concern about the mental health reporting requirements in the new gun law and how much they could cost you, the taxpayer.

The state group that represents all the county mental health directors says this added layer of bureaucracy will cost taxpayers millions. The money would be needed to hire hundreds of people across the state to review these reports and counties could be held liable for damages from lawsuits brought by people who are reported to the state.

Local mental health professionals say this new law focuses on the wrong thing and is really unrelated to the public health professionals who will have to do the reporting.

Recent mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut have put the spotlight on the shooters and whether they had mental health problems. The state-of-mind of William Spengler has also been questioned. He was the Webster man who used a bushmaster assault rifle to ambush four West Webster firefighters, killing two of them Christmas Eve morning. Governor. Cuomo defended the the new gun law known as the New York Safe Act  when he came to Rochester recently.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “This is about common sense controls to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminals. That's what this is about.”
The new gun law would require mental health professionals to report to county directors of mental health any people they believe could be a danger to themselves or others. But that reporting requirement is troubling to mental health professionals.

Dr. Eric Caine is Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Caine said, “You're asking the doctor or the mental health professional to make a danger assessment largely about suicide because remember almost all of these mass shootings have ended up with the person being dead.”

Dr. Caine says the shooters in these mass killings are not the type of person they see seeking mental health treatment.

Dr. Caine said, “The people who do go out and kill people aren't holding up a flag. They're not coming into mental health professionals.”

Patricia Woods, President/CEO Mental Health Association, said, “New York State is making a choice here, which is tracking people with mental illness, as opposed to treating people with mental illness.”

Patricia Woods is President and CEO of the Mental Health Association, which helps people achieve mental wellness through a number of community education and support services.

Woods said, “Many people will avoid services because of this law. The law says if you have a suicidal or homicidal thought we can report you to the government. A lot of people are not going to go for services because they're going to be afraid they're going to get reported.”

Dr. Caine at the University of Rochester Medical Center raises another question. If a person is reported to be a danger to themselves or others, supposedly the sheriff would have the responsibility to go to that person's home and confiscate weapons. He wants to know how that is going to work.
News10NBC wanted to know what Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks. A spokesman says she doesn't have a comment at this time because it's too soon to know exactly how the changes will impact the county.