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What can mental health professionals divulge in North Dakota?

Mental health professionals

The Parkland, Fla., shooting has reignited the debate around mental health and patient privacy. In North Dakota, medical professionals can't break confidentiality unless a patient expresses "imminent harm." Practitioners we spoke to said the law isn't the problem, but it's not necessarily the solution.

"If a mental health provider in North Dakota has a patient who expresses imminent harm to another person or intention to harm another person, They have a duty to do their best to warn the person who might be in danger, as well as contact law enforcement in order to keep people safe,” said CHI St. Alexius Health Clinical Psychologist Dr. Tara Feil.

Only 4 states - Maine, North Carolina, Nevada and North Dakota - do not have a duty to warn according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Other providers say once they report to law enforcement, it's out of their hands. "How far are they going to be able to go to make sure that this person doesn't hurt somebody else or hurt themselves,” said Kristen Getzlaff with Inspired Life Wellness Clinic.

Dr. Feil added that removing the stigma of mental illness is starting to make a difference. "I think the more we can have open conversations about these topics, the better we're going to be able to catch problems and get people the help they need before it's too late,” said Feil. She said if the state wants to improve care, there needs to be more mental health professionals.

Andrew Horn Reporting