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Mental health advocate takes issue with NY SAFE Act

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Buffalo: Mental health advocate takes issue with NY SAFE Act
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A major part of the SAFE act focuses on strengthening gun control laws for people with mental illness. But some mental health advocates are afraid it could have unintended consequences. YNN's Ryan Whalen reports.

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — About a quarter of adults suffer from mental illness.

"It's anxiety disorders. It's depression. It's a persistent mood that you can't seem to shake," said Ken Houseknecht, Erie County MHA President.

Houseknecht, the President of the Erie County Mental Health Association says he's not sure New York's Safe Act had the best interest of all those people in mind.

"It's unfortunate that they couple together gun control and mental health, because what it really does is reinforces the stigma on mental illness."

Many critics are most concerned with a provision requiring mental health professionals to report any person that is likely to harm themselves or others.

"Anything that you do that raises the barrier, that increases the likelihood that stigma is going to keep somebody silent, that's not a positive thing," said Houseknecht.

"Their individual rights will still be protected under the HIPA Laws and the various laws that prohibit disclosure of people's medical issues," said Sen. Patrick Gallivan, (R).

Although Gallivan didn't vote for the bill, he says the portions of it addressing mental illness were appropriate.

Among other things, it extends and expands a judge's authority to force someone to undergo psychiatric treatment and allows for the revocation or suspension of gun licenses for people with mental illness.

"We look at the various incidents, the terrible tragedies across the country. A common thread in every single one of them, if not all of them is mental health issues," Gallivan said.

Houseknecht says resources would be better used elsewhere.

"They ought to be devoting their research to intervention, prevention based programs, community based programs."

He says research shows mentally ill people are 12 times less likely to be the perpetrators of violent crime than the victims.

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