Coalition Urges Governor: Protect Patients, Stop Gutting Confidentiality

Micah Crandall-Bear, "Wetland LC"
Micah Crandall-Bear, “Wetland LC”

(Los Angeles, California, August 20, 2014) — A coalition of nonprofits alarmed about the gutting of patient confidentiality urges California Governor Jerry Brown to veto pending legislation that requires mental health practitioners to police their patients and report a growing list of statements to law enforcement—or face prosecution and potential jail time.

“The best way to protect the public is to let the people seeking help, get help,” said Andrew Extein, a clinical social worker who is Executive Director of The Center for Sexual Justice, a nonprofit focused on the reform of unjust sex laws that target sexual minorities. “Forcing psychotherapists to police their patients and report more and more of what they say is a total violation of the trust that is a necessary foundation of effective care,” he said.

A bill that has passed both chambers in California, AB 1775, requires a long list of service providers, including teachers, psychotherapists and even firemen, to report to law enforcement if someone divulges ever having viewed child pornography in the past, or face criminal prosecution themselves. “The purpose of counseling and psychotherapy is to help clients responsibly manage their struggles, not to simply turn them over to the authorities,” said Robert Weiss, senior vice president of clinical development with Elements Behavioral Health and a licensed clinical psychologist. “It makes no sense to sacrifice willing clients who are highly unlikely to harm another person. This law would clearly and without question prevent many individuals who both need and desire help with non-contact sexual activity from seeking that assistance. This proposed law is counterproductive not just for the potential client but for our culture as a whole.” See Mr. Weiss’ article, “Wake Up California Therapists! Protecting Client Confidentiality per Proposed California Law AB 1775.” 

“If Governor Brown wants to protect the public and protect children, he must protect patient confidentiality. He must veto this bill,” said Gail Colletta, Executive Director ofCAUTIONclick. “Professionals are trained on how to deal with a patient who might pose an imminent harm to self or others. However, to require a break in confidentiality for statements that pose no such imminent harm is misguided in the extreme,” she said.

According to Janice Bellucci, Executive Director of California Reform Sex Offender Laws, “there is no evidence in research that shows viewing child pornography indicates harm to actual children in a patient’s life, and there is no indication that such harm would have occurred or would be imminent.”

“This misguided bill will not protect children or protect the public, but it will subject patients and their treatment providers to counterproductive criminal interventions. If society is concerned with protecting children, the reporting mechanisms are already in place to do so.

What this law does is limit the potential successes of therapy without adding any additional protections. I hope the governor will do the right thing and stop this law,” said Extein.

The mission of The Center for Sexual Justice is to change the cultural beliefs leading to unjust sex laws that effectively target sexual minorities and to nurture a community of sexually diverse populations and families adversely affected by public persecution. The California Reform Sex Offender Laws organization is dedicated to restoring civil rights for those accused or convicted of sex crimes. The CAUTIONclick National Campaign for Reform (CNCR) is a national grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to promoting public safety by working toward evidence-based policy reform of the federal sentencing guidelines and management practices for non-production child pornography offenders.

 The Center for Sexual Justice