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Mental-health disclosures will not be required

 by Matt Culbertson
 published on Tuesday, February 26, 2008


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After officials said last week ASU would consider requiring students to disclose mental health histories, the University clarified its position Friday and said no such policy is under consideration.

According to a media advisory statement from ASU's Office of Media Relations issued on Friday, "ASU is not requiring and will not consider requiring such disclosure."

In an e-mail on Monday, ASU spokeswomen Leah Hardesty said, "We were never considering [mental health] disclosure."

Hardesty added that the campus safety recommendations following the Virginia Tech shootings "were misinterpreted, thus we distributed the media advisory to give clarification."

Hardesty did not respond for further comment or clarify how the information was misinterpreted, directing all questions to the media advisory.

In the advisory, Hardesty said that ASU was looking at recommendations in six reports on campus safety published after the Virginia Tech shootings.

These reports include looking at whether restrictions in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, both federal laws, prevent school officials from receiving information, she wrote.

However, no recommendations in the reports would have required students to disclose their mental health histories, Hardesty said in the advisory.

ASU President Michael Crow told The State Press on Wednesday that ASU currently has a policy in place that allows faculty and administrators to share information about "manifested, observable" behavior in students, if they think the behavior could lead to a threat to campus safety.

But the policy would not be altered to require disclosure of mental health histories, he said.

"Our policy is directed at verbal, demonstrative behavior," Crow said.

After The State Press reported on the policy consideration on Feb. 19, media organizations including The Arizona Republic, The East Valley Tribune and The Associated Press wrote stories about the issue, and editorials in the Tribune and The State Press which were critical of the alleged policy.

Following news reports of the possibility that ASU would require mental health disclosure, the Mental Health Association of Arizona scheduled a meeting this week for a possible position statement, said MHAA Executive Director Ann Marie Berger.

Even if ASU is not requiring students to disclose their mental health history, Berger said the board of directors of MHAA would meet Thursday to discuss whether to issue a statement on the subject of how universities should handle students' mental health.

"We need to make sure that every individual can seek help and treatment," Berger said.

The MHAA board could recommend that universities require students to receive health physicals and possibly mental health evaluations, Berger said.

But the association is opposed to any invasion of medical privacy, she added.

One in four individuals have mental health problems, such as depression or schizophrenia, and one in three families are affected by mental health issues, Berger said.

The State Press's Dan O'Connor contributed to this article.

Reach the reporter at matt.culbertson@asu.edu.



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