Mental health advocates worry about NY's SAFE Act - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Mental health advocates worry about NY's SAFE Act

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CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. -- With the quick passage of the New York SAFE Act - and some of the legislation being described as entering uncharted territory - advocacy groups all over the state are closely reviewing the language of the law.

Mental Health Association CEO Glenn Leibman expressed concerns of those with mental health issues being singled out.

With a stigma already attached to mental illness - there's a fear they're being viewed as more violent than the general public.

"People with mental illness are 12 times more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence," said Leibman. "I am concerned for the impact this will have on some of our most vulnerable people in the sense that we have now criminalized mental illness."

Attorney Joseph Glazer, a mental health advocate, also raises issues of privacy - suggesting the state may be wedging itself between doctor and patient. He also wonders if this steps on federal law - including HIPAA - since health professionals would be required to report certain patients without the individual's consent.

"The confidentiality of your patient goes to the grave with both of you, that's what the law says. This changes that entire dynamic," said Glazer.

The fear is without complete trust in the relationship; successful treatment may not be possible.

"I need to be able to tell you everything going on so you can treat me, and if I'm afraid what I tell you is going to wind up in some centralized government database, i may not tell you the whole thing," said Glazer.

But Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, who voted for the law, believes it's another way to assist patients so they cannot harm themselves or others.

"The main purpose here is how we can identify this individual early enough that we will be able to put in place a plan of action to help," said Ortiz.

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