Hey, remember back when New York’s new gun law, the NY-SAFE Act, passed the legislature, and then Gov. Cuomo signed it really fast by invoking the message of necessity? A lot of people, even some who weren’t opposed to what was actually in the new law, were rather put out by that, and ultimately the state did find itself in a position of having to reconsider some parts of the bill.
One group that’s been particularly concerned about some provisions in the new law is mental health advocates, who have made arguments that people with mental illness are unfairly stigmatized by certain aspects of NY-SAFE. At the time, Harvey Rosenthal, of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, said in a story reported by Karen DeWitt (link above) that
The environment of criminalization and demonization of people with mental illnesses has really reached a peak here in Albany…I’ve never seen it like this.
Rosenthal went on to say that the law, which requires therapists and other clinicians to report patients to a state centralized database if they might be a threat to themselves or others, after which authorities could take away patients’ guns, could damage the relationship of trust that (ideally) exists between therapists and patients.
It makes people not want to share or go to therapy…and that’s the exact opposite of what we should be trying to do right now.
Anyway, that was back in early March. Now it’s been a couple months since those provisions took effect, and mental health agencies are starting to figure out how to work with them. An article in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican describes how the system works, and how providers are feeling about it. I won’t go into the details here, but there’s a lot of judgment calls involved, and a lot of potential pitfalls in what’s proving to be a complicated reporting system.
Sherrie Gillette, director of community services at Clinton County Mental Health and Addiction Services, is quoted in the article saying that while she understands the need to take action to prevent future shootings, “the person with mental illness is far more likely to be a victim than a perpetrator.” Patients also aren’t notified that they’re being reported, and there’s no opportunity for them to respond to the situation, the article says. It’s also worth mentioning that a high percentage of those who seek mental health services, particularly emergency or inpatient services, express a desire to harm themselves (more on the NY-SAFE Act from the New York State Office of Mental health here.)
Gillette says with the law being so new, it’s hard to say what the impact has been so far. But she says she doesn’t think it’s the solution.