Doctor concerned with health care law

Breaking news and expert analysis on legal and compliance issues

[Back To Home][Back To Archives]

January 17, 2013

President's plans to prevent gun violence involve health care providers, research

By Michelle L. Oxman, JD, LLM

On January 16, 2013, President Barack Obama rolled out a multifaceted plan to prevent gun violence, using a combination of executive action and proposed legislation. In addition to proposing a reinstatement of the bans on assault weapons and ammunition clips containing more than ten rounds, the plan calls for increased access and referrals to mental health services and new research, reporting and education about gun violence as a public health issue.

A Presidential Memorandum directs the HHS Secretary, through the Centers for Disease Control, to conduct or sponsor public health research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. Secretary Sebelius is to begin by identifying "the most pressing public health questions with the greatest potential public health impact" and assessing the public health interventions currently being used to prevent gun violence in the United States. The President contends that the research is essential to an informed approach and does not violate statutory prohibitions on the use of CDC funds to advocate gun control.

President Obama also directed HHS to issue guidance to clarify the relationship between patients' right to privacy of their mental health treatment records and health care providers' legal authority to report credible, direct threats of violence to law enforcement authorities. The guidance states that no federal law prohibits health care providers from reporting threats to the authorities.

In addition, the administration takes the position that nothing in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148) restricts the authority of health care providers to discuss issues of gun safety with patients and families. Providers must be free to ask whether guns are present in the home and how they are stored in order to address safe storage and security, especially where the household includes young children or anyone who may show signs of mental illness.

Because 75 percent of mental illnesses develop in patients by the age of 24, President Obama's plan calls for training of teachers and others to recognize the signs of developing mental illness and provide "mental health first aid," in the form of intervention and referrals. Additional programs would: (1) provide support for individuals between 16 and 25 with identified needs for mental health services; (2) provide services in the schools to address the mental health needs of individuals who have been exposed to gun violence; and (3) train more mental health professionals. Finally, the administration also will enforce the 2008 laws requiring parity in coverage of mental health and substance abuse treatment.

MainStory: TopStory WhiteHouseNews

Health Law Daily

Introducing Wolters Kluwer Health Law Daily — a daily reporting service created by attorneys, for attorneys — providing same-day coverage of breaking news, court decisions, legislation, and regulatory activity.


A complete daily report of the news that affects your world

  • View full summaries of federal and state court decisions.
  • Access full text of legislative and regulatory developments.
  • Customize your daily email by topic and/or jurisdiction.
  • Search archives for stories of interest.

Not just news — the right news

  • Get expert analysis written by subject matter specialists—created by attorneys for attorneys.
  • Track law firms and organizations in the headlines with our new “Who’s in the News” feature.
  • Promote your firm with our new reprint policy.

24/7 access for a 24/7 world

  • Forward information with special copyright permissions, encouraging collaboration between counsel and colleagues.
  • Save time with mobile apps for your BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Android, or Kindle.
  • Access all links from any mobile device without being prompted for user name and password.