New disclosure law helps colleges share student mental health information with parents

College is a stressful experience for many and it is common for students to move through mood swings and periods of high or low performance. But in cases where things are very wrong, parents might never be told of a serious situation without the benefit of this new law.

College is a stressful experience for many and it is common for students to move through mood swings and periods of high or low performance. But in cases where things are very wrong, parents might never be told of a serious situation without the benefit of this new law.

Illinois college student mental health information is to be shared with parents under a new law. All institutions of higher learning shall create policies and forms for students to pre-authorize in writing, a designated person to receive certain private mental health information. The need to provide for increased communication among parents and students is significant. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “One in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental health illness, and more than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year.[i]

The new law, House Bill 3599, the Student Optional Disclosure of Private Mental Health Act, creates two conditions under which the mental health information of a student is properly shared with his or her parents. First, if a student consents to disclosure of mental health records, they complete a designation form when enrolling in school. The student may elect the nature of what information is shared and with whom. For example, a student could indicate that a former custodial parent could receive mental health information and the other parent may not. The second condition triggering mental health information sharing is the student’s danger to themselves or others, but only if a qualified health examiner makes that medical finding.

Mental health issues are prevalent among college students and awareness is important.

Students could be suffering with anything from anxiety to dangerous mental health conditions without many people recognizing the problem or threat. College is a stressful experience for many and it is common for students to move through mood swings and periods of high or low performance. But in cases where things are very wrong, parents might never be told of a serious situation without the benefit of this new law. “State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, introduced the proposal after a Bartonville family lost their college-age son to suicide last year. He said the state laws had prevented the student’s college from telling the parents of their son’s problems.[ii]

Parents may be relieved to know they can step in and take preventative measures if their son or daughter is experiencing mental health problems. Health law attorney Michael V. Favia stated in response to the news of the student mental health information sharing law, “This can be extremely valuable tool and helpful for everyone involved especially the student’s family who really need to know that their child has some possible psychological issues and might need family support and/or assistance while in school.”

Parents and students should discuss and be aware of the disclosure law.

The new law, HB 3599 takes effect on January 1, 2016 for new Illinois college students. Schools may offer existing students the option to enroll in the parental mental health information-sharing program. As students prepare to go back to school at the end of the summer, add a discussion about mental health information disclosure with your son or daughter. They might look at you funny but having the conversation and being aware of this new law and procedure.

Michael V. Favia & Associates represent clients with health law and injury matters. With offices conveniently located in the Chicago Loop, Northwest side and suburban meeting locations, you can schedule a meeting with an attorney at your convenience. For more about Michael V. Favia & Associates, please visit the firm’s website and feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter.

[i] National Alliance on Mental Illness, Learn About The Issue

[ii] Quad City Times, Rauner signs college mental health law, by Kurt Erickson, Aug. 5, 2015.

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