Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, has introduced legislation that would follow up on a state law passed after the shooting death of Aplington Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas. The state law requires hospitals to notify police before a suspect who is undergoing psychiatric treatment is released.
Braley says the Iowa Legislature passed a bipartisan common sense law and he wants to pass a law to answer any federal concerns. Mark Becker, a former player for Thomas, was found guilty of first-degree murder in Thomas’ death. Becker had been undergoing psychiatric treatment the day before the shooting and was released without police being notified. Braley says adding the federal law would ensure that such a thing did not happen in any state.
Braley says if the law had been in place and police had requested information on Becker, there would not be any questions about whether releasing the information would be a violation of the federal HIPPA statute that protects the release of medical information. Braley says he has been working with family and friends of Thomas to get this legislation put together, and felt now was the time to bring it forward.
He says they were looking for the appropriate time to address the issue where it wouldn’t be draw into the larger healthcare issues that have been debated in both the house and the senate.
Braley says his bill would allow hospitals to notify law enforcement officers of a patient’s release with specific conditions: If an individual is admitted to a medical facility while accompanied by a law enforcement official and such official makes a request for patient information in writing. That request is made at any point between the time the patient is admitted, and 24 hours after discharge, then the medical facility can provide medical information, including date of discharge, to the law enforcement agency.