Northwell Health, the largest health system and largest private employer in New York State, has announced a research study called, bizarrely, “We Ask Everyone. Firearm Safety is a Health Issue.” The project will require, as part of routine screening of emergency room patients, asking questions about firearm ownership and guns in the home. Implementation will begin at three Northwell hospitals initially (two on Long Island and one on Staten Island), with plans to expand the program to include “inpatient and ambulatory settings” across all of its facilities.
Northwell Health has reportedly refused to disclose what the questions will be, although the responses will be “scored and embedded into the patient’s electronic health record” and used to “establish next steps for care.” It’s not clear how this squares with the Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 300gg-17(c), and the prohibition against a health care provider, a wellness and prevention plan manager, or a health, wellness or prevention services organization requiring disclosure of or collecting information on lawful ownership of firearms or firearms stored or kept in a residence, but the program is being funded by a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Residents of the Empire State need to understand how “We Ask Everyone” dovetails with an existing law on mandatory mental-health reporting and disarming gun owners. Under 2013’s SAFE Act, the drastic gun-control legislation passed by the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, an amendment to the state Mental Hygiene Law created a mandatory reporting requirement for mental-health professionals. Physicians, psychologists, registered nurses and licensed clinical social workers providing treatment services are now required to report any client who, in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment, the treatment provider considers “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.” If a local government official agrees with the report, the report must be shared with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to disarm persons in possession of a state firearms license and guns. [full article]