Northwell Health commissioned a research titled, “We Ask Everyone. Firearm Safety is a Health Issue.” Patients visiting the facility for routine screening must answer questions on firearm ownership and guns at home.
The information will be recorded in the patient healthcare record (EHR) and used to “establish next steps for care.” However, the provider refused to disclose the questions to be asked.
Three Northwell facilities, two located on Long Island and one situated at Staten Islands, were selected for the initial stages of the project. The provider will then expand the practice to other branches and services including inpatient and ambulatory settings across all hospitals operated by the healthcare provider.
However, one potential point of conflict is with the Affordable Care Act that prevents healthcare operators from demanding or collecting gun ownership information.
Similarly, the information will be a huge setback to mental health treatment because of the relationship between guns and mental health.
Individuals will be forced to choose between seeking health and keeping their gun rights. This is because the Mental Hygiene Law under the SAFE Act requires mandatory reporting.
The mandatory reports are shared with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. The agency determines the risk posed by the individual and their firearms are taken away on mere suspicions of being a threat to themselves and others. The reported Individuals are supposed to surrender their firearms, and those awaiting their licenses are canceled.
The accused person is not granted a hearing or a mental evaluation, and a court order is not necessary for the firearm confiscation. Most people feel that the mental health component of the SAFE Act is solely intended as a disarmament tool, rather than a medical intervention.
Additionally, health professionals are compelled to report on the slightest suspicion of mental anguish. With the hospital starting such an experiment, its designating itself as a disarmament facility where every gun owner who seeks medical attention risks becoming a candidate for disarmament.
Reports indicate that the highest percentage of the 36,000 people reported by 2015 under the SAFE Act was submitted by hospitals, mostly from the emergency room and inpatient psychiatric services.
With all patients visiting the hospital required to disclose firearm ownership information, many will find themselves reported and disarmed because of New York’s low reporting threshold. The SAFE Act already prevented many people from seeking help. Northwell Hospital’s project will dissuade even more people from seeking healthcare assistance.
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