A court recently ruled mental health professionals could be sued if someone under their care ends up harming themselves or others. Emily Piper, a lobbyist who worked on the bill, says the new law spells out when a psychiatrist could be sued for not speaking up.
“We want those parameters to be really clear,” she says, “so that when you get into the position of making that professional judgement, you are not exposing if you did not believe those parameters were met.”
Under the new law, a psychiatrist who doesn’t report to police would be immune from a lawsuit unless a patient was threatening a clearly identifiable victim or victims. And reporting threats would still be voluntary. Piper says the law balances the safety and confidentiality concerns.
“We think that it creates a better partnership between those mental health professionals and law enforcement in terms of somebody who is clearly exhibiting signs of either injuring themselves or others,” Piper says.
Other states have passed similar laws recently.
Piper is a statehouse lobbyist for the Iowa Mental Health Counselors Association, the Iowa Psychiatric Society and the Iowa Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
(Reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell)