HIPAA in regards to mental health + police report

  1. I work in inpatient psych and was assaulted by a patient. I decided I wanted to file a police report to cover my bases, but will likely not press charges as it won't ever go anywhere due to it being a patient with multiple psychiatric diagnosis that could cause this type of behavior.

    My job basically told me that I could not do any of this because in order to file a police report I would have to give them identifying information about the patient which violates HIPAA (especially because mental health patients are extra protected). However, the police say that HIPAA (mental health or not) does not apply when it is a matter of a criminal investigation and that I can talk to them and give them information (like patient first and last name).

    I tried to find a lawyer to speak with that was unaffiliated, but they charge a ton of money just to give me advice and I can't come close to affording it (especially since I likely will not press charges). Anyone have any basic advice they can give on this subject?
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    About foreverLaur

    Joined: Oct '07; Posts: 1,327; Likes: 425
    Clinical Research Coordinator, Oncology; from US


  3. by   wish_me_luck
    I am confused. Usually people who file police reports intend to press charges. I guess I don't understand why you want to file the report without pressing charges. If you are doing it to cover your bases, then just document in the patient record factual info. and request not to be put with that patient per what happened. I understand that it is not okay for ANYONE to assault anybody. From what I am getting is this patient is doing this due to his/her mental illness; not just a personal assault. Maybe I am not understanding this at all.

    You, unfortunately, would be the one on the outs if you had to pay money to a lawyer to give you legal advice just to file a report with no intentions of going anywhere with it. Do you have any witnesses or obvious injuries to this assault? If not, if anything does come of it; it will be very hard to prove.

    Like I said, I am not sticking up for this patient and definitely do not think that is right what he/she did; but it would be very hard to do anything with. Are you in NY by chance? They have a law that patients can be held liable for any assaults that they carry out.
  4. by   Whispera
    Did you file an incident report where you work? Did you require treatment? It's important to file an incident report when such things happen. It's also important to be evaluated for treatment just in case you were hurt and it doesn't show up immediately. Then you have evidence that something happened. Then your employer would have to pay "workmen's compensation," I believe, if your treatment costs anything, since you were injured while working.

    I don't think I'd file a report with the police just to cover my bases. I'd make sure the facility's policy on injury at work was followed, however.

    If you need a lawyer, consider contacting a university that has a law school. They have law students that answer questions, often, and don't charge an arm and a leg.

    And...if you're in the US, HIPAA falls out the window, or at least perches on the windowsill when someone is dangerous to self or others... That doesn't mean your facility would accept you filing a report, however.
  5. by   foreverLaur
    Yes, I filled out an incident report and was treated at employee health. I'm seeing my dentist tomorrow to ensure there was no dental damage, however. My employer encouraged me to file a police report, but said I'm not allowed to give out any identifying information of the patient which sorta defeats the purpose. The hospital is part of a university that has a law school and I did speak with them - they also recommended the police report to cover my bases (I can choose later to press charges) but they were unsure of how HIPAA worked in this situation.
  6. by   Esme12
    The Privacy Rule is balanced to protect an individual’s privacy while allowing important law enforcement functions to continue. The Rule permits covered entities to disclose protected health information (PHI) to law enforcement officials, without the individual’s written authorization, under specific circumstances summarized below. For a complete understanding of the conditions and requirements for these disclosures, please review the exact regulatory text at the citations provided. Disclosures for law enforcement purposes are permitted as follows:

    This same limited information may be reported to law enforcement:
    • About a suspected perpetrator of a crime when the report is made by the victim who is a member of the covered entity’s workforce (45 CFR 164.502(j)(2));
    • To identify or apprehend an individual who has admitted participation in a violent crime that the covered entity reasonably believes may have caused serious physical harm to a victim, provided that the admission was not made in the course of or based on the individual’s request for therapy, counseling, or treatment related to the propensity to commit this type of violent act (45 CFR 164.512(j)(1)(ii)(A), (j)(2)-(3)).

      When does the Privacy Rule allow covered entities to disclose protected health information to law enforcement officials?
  7. by   Rob72
    Esme is correct, your employer is trying to ward off a suit by the assailant and/or family by bamboozling you. No facility may legally condone physical abuse of residents or staff. Period. Most do, in varying ways, and your rights may conflict with your ability to stay employed, but...
  8. by   sharpeimom
    when i worked in a state psych hospital, i was attacked by a ****'* angel who was over seven feet tall and weighed in excess
    of 450#. i am 5'4" and weighed about 110# or so. fair fight? don't think so. he grabbed me by my right shoulder and my left
    hip and suddenly i was airborne. he said, "make a wish biotch! it took three large male aides and an equally big psychiatrist
    to free me.

    the hospital itself filed a report, which stayed within the institution, my supervisor filled one out too, and another was filled out
    when the er checked my shoulder out. none went to the police. the patient was identified only by his hospital id number. for
    example, as id# 00000-00000 instead of as john doe. the only way john doe could be connected to his number after a certain
    point in time was by having a state capitol secretary dig and dig.

    he was told, in no uncertain terms, by the admin that if he or any of his buddies threatened or coerced me in any way, he'd face
    consequences. i wasn't his first target. i was off for several weeks and when i returned, he was much much less difficult.

    i don't know what would happened had he tried something again.