Could the NY Safe Act's mental health provision backfire?

Nearly three years after the death of her brother in a psychiatric ward in Rochester, Kim Davis is still seeking answers. The records only say Dennis Seymour Davis died of "undetermined" causes while undergoing treatment for paranoid schizophrenia. "I don't think I'm ever going to get an answer for that... I keep trying." Kim Davis told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.

Her brother was institutionalized after an incident in February '08 in which he fired shots at a gas station. No one was hurt, but in his paranoia, Kim Davis says her brother thought someone had been urinating in his coffee.

After the Newtown massacre, Davis understands why Governor Andrew Cuomo would feel a need to do something to keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill, but she feels the New York Safe Act misses the mark. "I think they're handling it too hastily to be correct. I don't think they studied or talked to anyone enough. I don't think it's going to stop the problem."

Among the provisions of the NY Safe Act, which was enacted in just two days, is one which " will require mental health professionals ... to report if an individual they are treating is likely to engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to him or herself or others." Based on that reporting requirement, authorities will decide whether to seize the patients guns.

While many mental health professionals applaud the Governor's intent to keep guns away from the mentally ill, they also feel it could deter their patients from seeking the help they need.

Jeremy Klemanski is the CEO of Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare which treats more than 5,700 patients per year. He feels the reporting requirement could scare patients away. "If you're thinking is that, if I go tell them I have mental health issues and need treatment... there's a possibility they might report me to someone who might take my guns away. I think that could easily be a deterrent to someone seeking treatment."

Klemanski says mental health caregivers have always had a responsibility to warn authorities of a dangerous person, but he has a problem with the idea that a mental health provider would be saddled with the responsibility of helping to enforce gun control. Klemanski says he wishes members of his profession had more input into the decision making. The NY Safe Act was enacted in just two days without public hearings. "I see nothing that relates (whether) we're going to better invest in mental health care for New Yorkers.

On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo unveils the state budget. Klemanski and others will be looking to see if it contains funding for mental health care.