They say that bad facts make bad laws. During the mid 1980’s, a famous basketball player died of a drug overdose. Tip O’Neill, then the Speaker of the House, responded by rushing the federal sentencing guidelines through Congress. By these guidelines, courts are mandated to impose long sentences on defendants. In many cases these sentences have been unfairly and unproductively long. Many federal judges have been sickened by their work in sentencing drug addicts to lengthy sentences.
New York’s recent gun control legislation has been a similar kneejerk response. Responding to the December shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Governor Cuomo, who may be running for president in 2016, quickly pushed gun control legislation through the New York legislature.
The results of such hasty work are negligible. The state was correct in banning certain assault weapons. But a number of gun experts have said that the new laws do not address many of the real dangers presented by guns.
Yet perhaps more alarmingly, the legislation has targeted the mentally ill. It mandates that psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and other healthcare providers report mentally ill patients who may be dangerous. These provisions interfere with therapeutic relationship, and inhibit therapy, much of which would be beneficial. The legislature seems to be unaware that psychiatrists and therapists have the ethical duty of confidentiality unless the patient makes clear threats, and thus presents a clear danger.
The proper action of the state would have been to provide sufficient funding for mental health services. But Cuomo has followed the lead of New York governors going back to Hugh Carey in placing mental health among his first budget cuts.
Once again, the state has displayed an appalling lack of concern for the mentally ill.