Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NASW and Gun Safety

The topic of gun violence is continually before us. The MA Chapter has received numerous inquiries from members wondering what we are doing to address this issue.

Here is a short summary of what is happening on our end and a request to our members to let us know what you think.

First, NASW is working on several fronts. Our particular concern is the issue of releasing mental health records for the purpose of background checks when individuals seek to purchase a firearm. The other issue has to do with a social worker’s commitment to maintaining client confidentiality. We know that there are legal exceptions to confidentiality. Some advocates for releasing records suggest that this would be another exception, in the service of keeping guns out of the hands of previously and potentially violent individuals. However, what if someone has a mental health history that is unrelated to violence in their past, as is the case for the majority of those seeking mental health treatment? What if a person was admitted to a psychiatric facility for the purpose of an eating disorder or other behavioral health issue? Should those records be revealed to the licensing authority?

We participate in one Coalition, convened by Rep. David Linsky of Natick that is addressing many of these. And recently Speaker of the House DeLeo, appointed one of our NASW members to serve on a work group that he has established on the subject. In addition, the Chapter will be pulling together a small work group of NASW members who have extensive experience in working with violent clients and who are thoroughly immersed in the legal requirements having to do with the release of records.

This is an invitation for you to let us know your views on the issue and if you would consider joining a small Chapter organized work group to come up with an NASW position. Contact the Director of Government Relations, Rebekah Gewirtz, at Gewirtz@naswma.org. And thank you for interest in this important issue.